Speaking of bill titles, and program titles as well, it seems that more often than not a feel-good title is an attempt to mask not-so-good content. Kind of like the self-aggrandizing arrogant egotist that has nothing but great things to say about himself. In this case “Affordable Health Care for America” is that kind of title. (Subsequent references to it will be by the more appropriate name of “H.R. 3962”).
According to CNN, “H.R. 3962 restricts insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition or charging higher premiums based on gender or medical history. It also provides federal subsidies to those who cannot afford it and guarantees coverage for 96 percent of Americans” (www.cnn.com).
Let’s consider the consequences of these aspects of H.R. 3962.
Restricting insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions will not make health care more affordable for most Americans. Rather, it will increase the amount of medical care the insurance companies have to pay for, which will result in higher premiums for everyone.
Likewise, preventing insurance companies from charging higher premiums to higher risk people will end up making health care less affordable for everyone. People who aren’t high risk will end up paying more than their fair share, while high risk people who might not have been able to get insurance will now be using insurance to pay for their medical services, increasing the amount paid out by insurance companies, which will increase premiums across the board for everyone.
Giving federal subsidies will probably make health care more affordable for those who can’t currently afford it, however, federal subsidy money doesn’t grow on trees, but comes from tax payers. So the cost of health care isn’t going away or becoming less, it is instead being tucked into taxes. Many of those taxes will be on businesses that produce goods and services, and their increased costs will be passed on to the consumer.
More Americans getting health insurance coverage will result in higher utilization of medical services. The young professional that didn’t previously bother to get coverage will now go to the doctor when they have a case of the flu rather than tough it out. The cut that could have been patched up with a butterfly bandage will now be sutured in the emergency room. The person who was previously paying for their own medications will no longer have to come out of pocket. Once again, insurance companies will be footing the bill, and passing it on to everyone in the form of higher premiums.
Of course the scenario described in the prior paragraph won’t last for long. The honeymoon will likely be very short. Insurance companies will be pressured to keep premiums low. They will then pressure health care professionals to charge even less. Doctors will already be overworked and underpaid, and there will be less incentive for the best and the brightest to spend years in medical school preparing for a high stress, low-reward career. Soon our system will become like every other socialized health care system: broken. Too many patients, too few doctors, too expensive.
Just Like Social Security and Medicare
Nancy Pelosi “likened [H.R. 3962] to the the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later” (www.foxnews.com). And she’s right. Social Security is insolvent, is abused by the government, disincentivizes people from preparing for their retirement, and robs from the average American the ability to make their own retirement saving decisions.
Is any program run by the government efficient? Relatively free of abuse and corruption? Less expensive than free market alternatives (taking into account the tax tab)? Why would government-run health care be any different?
Don’t just take our word for it. An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal calls H.R. 3962 “The Worst Bill Ever”. Here are some excerpts (emphasis added):
Democrats have dumped any pretense of genuine bipartisan “reform” and moved into the realm of pure power politics as they race against the unpopularity of their own agenda. The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be “universal coverage.” The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country’s fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.” “The House disguises hundreds of billions of dollars in additional costs with budget gimmicks. It “pays for” about six years of program with a decade of revenue, with the heaviest costs concentrated in the second five years. The House also pretends Medicare payments to doctors will be cut by 21.5% next year and deeper after that, “saving” about $250 billion. ObamaCare will be lucky to cost under $2 trillion over 10 years; it will grow more after that.”
All told, the House favors $572 billion in new taxes…. The burden will mostly fall on the small businesses that have organized as Subchapter S or limited liability corporations, since the truly wealthy won’t have any difficulty sheltering their incomes…. [Taxes] will rise over time, with severe consequences for hiring, job creation and ultimately growth. While the U.S. already has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world, Democrats are on the way to creating a high structural unemployment rate, much as Europe has done by expanding its welfare states.”
The cost of insurance, naturally, will skyrocket. The insurer WellPoint estimates based on its own market data that some premiums in the individual market will triple under these new burdens. The same is likely to prove true for the employer-sponsored plans that provide private coverage to about 177 million people today.
James Delingpole, a journalist, writer and broadcaster in England, where healthcare is “free”, laments that “we’ve discovered to our cost on my side of the Atlantic, ‘free universal healthcare’ is a gaping maw which is not only incapable of being satisfied, but, worse, actually seems to get uglier and more voracious the more money you chuck into it” (www.humanevents.com).
Some Not-so-great Moments in Socialized Medicine
According to the Wall Street Journal, “as Congress’s balance sheet drowns in trillions of dollars in new obligations, the political system will have no choice but to start making cost-minded decisions about which treatments patients are allowed to receive. Democrats can’t regulate their way out of the reality that we live in a world of finite resources and infinite wants. Once health care is nationalized, or mostly nationalized, medical rationing is inevitable — especially for the innovative high-cost technologies and drugs that are the future of medicine” (online.wsj.com).
The Wall Street Journal isn’t just speculating about what might happen. Politicized decisions about available treatments and the rationing of health care are already part and parcel of socialized medicine where ever it exists. Here are some recent examples:
A young English girl named Sophie “had received the best treatment that UK hospitals had to offer”, but it wasn’t good enough. She needed to come to the U.S. “for pioneering treatment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York” that would increase her chances of survival from 20 to 90 percent (www.dailymail.co.uk). Of course this treatment that wasn’t available in the U.K. wasn’t covered by socialized health insurance. Why wasn’t the treatment available in the U.K.? Why was it available in the U.S.? Because the free market in the U.S. drives innovation and advances in medicine. Socialized systems do the opposite. People come from all over the world, often leaving behind their government-sponsored health care, to get medical care in the U.S. Why? Because the U.S. has what is by far the best health care system in the world precisely because of capitalism and free enterprise. Health care reform will stifle that.
In 2000 the UK introduced a new “NHS Cancer plan” with the stated objective of improving cancer survival in the UK. But it has an arbitrary age cut-off of 70. “This results in hospitals having less interest in the elderly. ‘Yet half of all those diagnosed with cancer are over 70,’ says Dr Tony Moran, NWCIS research director. ‘It’s an area that has been grossly neglected. ‘These days, most 75-year-olds can expect to live for at least another ten years and they should be benefiting from improvements in treatment.” (www.dailymail.co.uk). The result? “Up to 15,000 elderly people with cancer in the UK are dying prematurely every year when compared to the rest of Europe and the U.S., according to a report published by the North West Cancer Intelligence Service (NWCIS) which compiles cancer statistics” (www.dailymail.co.uk).
The UK has “medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals [that] state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks” (www.telegraph.co.uk). Earlier this year a woman named Sarah Capewell gave birth to a baby boy 21 weeks and 5 days into her pregnancy. “Staff at James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston, Norfolk, told her that if her son Jayden had been born two days later, at 22 weeks, they would have tried to help him” (www.telegraph.co.uk). According to Sarah Capewell, her son “was breathing unaided, had a strong heartbeat, and was even moving his arms and legs, but medics refused to admit him to the special care baby unit” (www.dailymail.co.uk). Doctor’s ignored his pleas for help, and her son died in her arms two hours later.
U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, speaking in a session of Congress, said that “according to the National Cancer Institute, the National Cancer Intelligence Center for the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Cancer Registry… if you get prostate cancer, you have a less chance of survivability than you do in the United States. And that’s the same for skin cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, ovarian cancer, leukemia, and the list goes on and on and on” (www.youtube.com).
An Italian doctor, Manuela Corielli, who now lives and works in New York, had this to say about socialized medicine:
Socialized medicine is a wonderful concept that doesn’t work. And the reason why it doesn’t work is because you end up having hospitals that don’t have enough funding to run a proper health care. Italians pay very high portions of their income tax for health care. Very high. So it actually is not really free. And then the money that you pay goes to bureaucrats who then decide which hospital should get the money, and they distribute the money with a huge waste of money in their system. If you look at Italy, and Italy is what I know best, people who can afford it not only pay their taxes for health care, but also buy insurance, because once they need to go to the hospital they don’t want to wait five or six months for a test. They don’t want to go to a doctor that the state chooses for them. They want to choose their doctor. They want to be able to be taken care of in a timely fashion. My father got lung cancer in 2006, unfortunately. When we went to the surgeon, the surgeon told him, my mother and me, very straightforward that if my father was going privately, meaning he would pay his fee privately, he could have surgery in two days, three days. If he wanted to go with the health system then he had to wait six months. Today a person who has breast cancer in Italy waits five to six months before they have surgery. To me the system doesn’t work (www.foxnews.com).
Even if by some great miracle health care in the United States ends up costing less as a result of government health care reform, would anyone really consider rationed care and bad health care outcomes to be “affordable”?
A Health Care Crisis?
Compared to elsewhere in the world, there is no health care crisis in the United States. Not only does the U.S. have the best and most advanced health care in the world, it also has the most available health care without long waiting lists and draconian rationing.
Do you know anyone who has an urgent medical need that doesn’t get prompt care? Or someone with a chronic condition who cannot get treatment or medication? What? They had to pay for it? The system is broken because their health care isn’t always “free”? Wrong. Health care is never free. There is no such thing as a free lunch (basic economics), and there is no such thing as “free” health care.
Yet there are programs in place that provide free or subsidized health care to people who cannot afford health insurance. Federal programs include Medicaid, Medicare and S-CHIP. Most states have state-run health care programs. And anyone can walk into virtually any hospital in the United States and receive treatment, regardless of their ability or willingness to pay, due to the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. Not to mention the myriad of privately funded charitable hospitals, clinics and foundations that provide health care to those who cannot afford to pay for it.
These aren’t free. Who pays for it? We do. We the taxpayers. We the purchasers of health care. We the purchasers of insurance, whether we buy it on our own or receive it as part of our employment compensation. We the charitable donors.
Turning more power and control and decision-making over to the federal government isn’t going to make health care “free” or more affordable. It will have the opposite effect and make it more expensive. Here is another interesting piece of evidence:
“Back in the 1970s, the RAND think tank in California tracked two thousand families over eight years in a study that cost about a quarter of a billion dollars (adjusting for inflation) – one of the most expensive experiments in the history of social science. The study compared the health and the health-care spending of two groups: one with free health care, the other with some type of cost-sharing up to a point, after which catastrophic insurance kicked in (structurally similar to a Health Savings Account). The result? Those on the free plan cost 40 percent more but in the end were no healthier than those on the HSA-style plan. This suggests that people are able to make intelligent health-care choices when provided with a financial incentive to do so” (www.freemarketcure.com).
And what about the oft-cited 46 million uninsured? More disregard for truth. More politically-motivated propaganda. The great majority of the uninsured (almost 40 million) choose to be uninsured either by not enrolling in existing government-funded insurance options that they already qualify for, or because they are in good health and would much rather spend their money on things other than health insurance (www.freemarketcure.com). But under H.R. 3962 the freedom to choose to be uninsured will be stripped from us. People who don’t buy insurance will be fined. And a much larger portion of everyone’s earnings will be hijacked to pay for health care.
Why H.R. 3962?
H.R. 3962 will actually make health care in America more expensive and less available and effective. It doesn’t take a lot of thought or research to figure that out. So why are the Democrats so intent on it?
The Wall Street Journal states that “the overriding liberal ambition is to finish the work began decades ago as the Great Society of converting health care into a government responsibility” (online.wsj.com).
Is it because the Democrat party depends on dependents to maintain and expand their power base, and there is no better way to make people dependent than by controlling their health care?