“Free” healthcare coverage! Doesn’t that sound great? But, as Milton Friedman said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Even people who wouldn’t have to pay directly for government healthcare coverage would pay in many ways.
There are many things to dislike about the Obama Administration’s healthcare proposal. First and foremost, government would eventually take control of virtually every aspect of healthcare and this would greatly diminish individual freedom and the doctor-patient relationship. And the cost would be in trillions of dollars we don’t have. So Republicans ought to oppose this to the maximum extent possible and filibuster it to the end.
But in addition to the unacceptable concepts this proposal represents, there are some obvious signs that this is an attempt to put something very serious over on the American people. Consider:
1. Obama is determined to take a very strong role in this himself, not trusting the Congress or anyone else to do it “right.” Many of his campaign statements, such as the people who have health insurance won’t see a change except that they’ll pay less, and the government won’t tax employer-provided health insurance benefits as that villain John McCain was going to do, will be out the window and forgotten.
2. This item will be on a fast track to minimize scrutiny and thoughtful consideration, being presented as a “crisis” which must be dealt with immediately. Probably, it will be voted upon without having been read, like the “stimulus” bill.
3. Democrats will largely leave Republicans out of the discussions about it, since Republicans will oppose all aspects of it. At least, they should.
4. If approved, this program would put us squarely in the middle of socialism and it would be very difficult to extricate ourselves from it.
The final form is not yet clear. What is wanted by Obama is universal single-payer healthcare coverage. This would greatly damage the hated (by Obama) pharmaceutical and insurance industries. He could then say, “Look, we’re getting even with these guys who are ripping you off!” But of course the people would be no better off. Proper healthcare would quickly begin to disappear. Waiting lists would proliferate. If someone needs an MRI, for instance, it is not too difficult to get one scheduled for just about anyone, anywhere in the U.S. Under socialized coverage, there will soon be long delays in getting any procedures involving sophisticated technology, and in many cases it won’t be available – too costly.
We must distinguish between health insurance and actual health care, but once government takes over the insurance market, they will dictate what kind of care is to be provided, and most likely eventually become the provider as well.
Today, health care is rationed by the market. It is readily available to the point that over 80% of Americans do not want any change to their present coverage. Yet it’s a “crisis” which “only the government” can fix. When the government takes over, many new agencies will be needed, new drugs on the market will be fewer and further between, and healthcare will be rationed by bureaucrats, meaning that arbitrary rules and decisions will prevail over sound medical judgment. Bureaucratic rationing will mean that medical decisions will be made by people who (1) don’t know the actual cases involved and (2) have little or no expertise in things medical. Their main equipment will be a spreadsheet and a calculator to see what fits into some little formula.
Older people will likely be excluded from any treatments deemed too costly (which they can readily get today under Medicare, if needed). AARP ought to be up in arms over this whole business. Eugenics will eventually raise its ugly head under the guise of cost-effectiveness.
Republican leaders have been expressing opposition to the idea of government insurance. They are saying many of the right things: that it will lead to government insurance for everyone, unfairly compete in the insurance market, etc. They seem to be focusing on the “public plan,” i.e. socialist issue the most, which is good. They need to reject this entire proposal in total, not try to negotiate details around the edges. Then there’s the little matter of how (or whether) it can be paid for. Democrats want to tax everything from soft drinks to employer benefits and it still wouldn’t be enough. They’ve proposed penalties on people who don’t participate by buying insurance. Maybe they’ll do what the unions want to do with reluctant workers under the card check program: persuade them through “home visits.”
If the Republicans ever are going to take a firm, united stand against anything Obama is doing, this healthcare proposal is where they should do it. Like it or not, this is going to be their moment of truth. Either they stand and fight this truly freedom-destroying, bankrupting orgy of socialism or we can question their credibility as being anywhere near conservative, and we would have to question their courage. I hope they are up to the challenge. Happy filibustering!