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Herding Us Into ObamaCare

Think you'll have a real choice between private insurance and a nationalized health system? Think again. (Also read Richard Fernandez: Getting Better)

by
Jennifer Rubin

Bio

July 26, 2009 - 12:39 am

Although the president and Democratic Congress have tried to jam through a massive health care reform plan before the public gets wind of what is going on, they will not, it seems, succeed in passing a bill, or even obtaining a vote in Congress before the August recess. And that is bad news indeed if you are a fan of ObamaCare.

Liberals are in panic mode. Watch an hour or two of the cable news shows and liberals are fretting that the “opportunity will be lost.” The conservatives will be able to “kill” health care and will take to the airwaves to “confuse” the public, they worry. In other words, the cat is out of the bag. ObamaCare is nothing short of a disaster — for the economy and for health care. And now we have the luxury of time to find out just how disastrous it is.

Democrats have gotten themselves into a box. They have constructed a system designed to force us into public health care plans at great expense. And then to deal with the soaring cost they resort to rationing. Both should and will scare the American people.

In what may prove to be the definitive analysis of ObamaCare, James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain in the Weekly Standard what ObamaCare means:

First, there are massive hidden costs inherent in a little-understood provision of the plan. The centerpiece of ObamaCare is a new premium subsidy program. In the House bill, families with incomes up to four times the poverty level would get a fixed cap on their insurance premiums, tied to their incomes. For instance, a family whose income is twice the poverty level would pay no more than 5 percent of its total income for insurance. But providing that guarantee to all such households in America would cost far more than even the Democrats are willing to propose. The plan therefore would make subsidies available only to households getting insurance through the new “exchanges,” insurance pools set up in each state as a parallel system to job-based coverage. And full-time workers in all but the smallest firms would be barred from entering the exchanges, at least for a time, so they wouldn’t have access to the new entitlement.

The combination of the subsidy and the public option, Capretta and Levin note, would likely send still more people into the government’s plans, pushing the cost of ObamaCare still higher.

Hence, we see the need for Orwellian structures to regulate and limit “costs” — which means regulating and limiting care. Capretta and Yuval again:

So, now, at the eleventh hour, the president is hailing a new approach — vast new powers for a board of experts in Washington to set rules and calibrate fees — as the secret to cutting costs and bringing the system under control, first within Medicare and then beyond. But in a system as complex as ours, this is a recipe for one-size-fits-all inefficiency and the shortages, misallocations, and waiting lines that come with it. This is even worse than simple rationing; it is an attempt at technocratic central planning for a country of over 300 million people.

In PJTV’s health care forum, Levin explained exactly how this very painful rationing plan operates. He calls ObamaCare a “herding” plan which would drop more and more of us into the public option plan. You will have everyone, he explains, forced in effect into a “very long line” for health care. And then we also get drug price controls, limiting money available for life-saving new drug development.

The cost-ration conundrum is the inevitable result of the Democrats’ insistence that “health care reform” means government-run health care. There are of course cheaper ways to provide health care (e.g., swapping employer-provided insurance for tax credit) and real ways of eliminating some costs (e.g., tort reform) but these hold little interest for liberals. The point here is to have government-run health care.

This is no secret. Liberals call it scare-mongering when contrary facts are introduced, but in fact liberals themselves have long talked about schemes like the public option as a gateway to single-payer, nationalized health care. They too understand the public’s aversion to “nationalized health care.” So the solution, from their perspective, is to set and rig the rules so eventually all or most of us slide into government-managed care.

As Rep. Paul Ryan explains:

The public option is not designed to keep private insurance honest but to make private insurance go away.

A new government-run plan would stack the deck against any would-be competitors. The private sector has to pay taxes; the government collects taxes. The private sector has to account for its employees and benefits, while maintaining minimum reserve requirements; the government does not. The private sector pays whatever rates it negotiates with providers; the government dictates payments.

The August recess and the months of debate to follow will afford all of us the chance to learn just what it means to be “herded” into government-managed plans. If it sounds frightening, it is. And deprived of their strategy of rushing health care through before the public and Congress can get their bearings, the Obama administration will now have to explain why we should put health care decisions for 300 million Americans in the hands of government bureaucrats. That realization, coupled with the staggering cost of the plan, may in fact drive a stake through ObamaCare. Let’s hope so.

Jennifer Rubin blogs at the Washington Post.
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