PJ Media

Why Trade U.S.'s Health Care Problem for Britain’s Catastrophe?

A series of recent polls showing that his health care proposal has fallen out of favor with a plurality of the American people — and that a majority are no longer predisposed to support a “universal” health care plan as they were before finding out that such a sweeping program would cost them money — has caused President Barack Obama to shift the focus of his health care overhaul evangelism.

Cast for the duration of his presidential campaign and the first six months of his presidency as a solution to the no-longer ignorable “crisis” of the 45 million American uninsured, Obama abruptly abandoned so-called “universal coverage” as the raison d’être for his single-minded pursuit of a health care overhaul, deciding instead to focus on the cost of health care for all, insured or not.

On July 13, Rasmussen Reports released a poll showing that more people (49 percent) opposed Obama’s health care proposal than favored it (46 percent) — the first time a major poll had produced this result. Further, according to a Rasmussen poll published July 18, 61 percent of Americans believe high costs are the biggest problem the nation’s health care system is currently facing. By contrast, only 21 percent had a lack of so-called “universal coverage” as their chief concern. Ten percent cited quality as the biggest problem with the health care system, and 2 percent said inconvenience in getting care.

These poll results seem to show that our health care system really isn’t in as much trouble as some would like us to think it is. After all, if the cost of lifesaving health treatments, rather than the quality of those treatments and access to them, is the biggest worry of a population, things just aren’t so bad, no matter what demagogues in Washington may say.

These Rasmussen polls also seem to show the folly of adopting the style of socialized medicine practiced in countries like Great Britain, where the cost of health care is far down the list of concerns, but where the quality of and access to lifesaving and life-prolonging treatments are incredibly serious problems.

Anecdotes revealing the high human cost associated with government-run health care gone wrong, United Kingdom-style, are endless. Emergency room patients have been left in ambulances outside hospitals for over eight hours, in order for administrators to technically (and perversely) comply with a government decree that patients be seen by a physician within four hours of entering the hospital. Disabled children are being made to wait up to two years for wheelchairs because the government can’t — or won’t — provide them in a timely manner. The average wait is five months, and which children even receive such equipment then is determined by government lottery.

Women are being prevented from giving birth by cesarean section because bureaucrats in charge of health care have decided the procedure is too expensive — a rationale being offered by the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness for its rationing of care and denial of dozens of lifesaving and life-extending drugs, treatments, and procedures.

Earlier this year, a three-year-old girl had a heart operation delayed for the third time because of a lack of hospital beds.

Earlier this month, a veteran of the British military had to pull out 13 of his own teeth with pliers because he didn’t win the national lottery held to see which National Health Service patients would get a chance to see a dentist this year.

These stories, and more like them, are commonplace events in the government-run National Health Service (which Obama adviser and former nominee for Health and Human Services secretary Tom Daschle has openly said he wants the U.S. system to emulate).

The fact that polls are showing that the vast majority of Americans’ biggest concern is cost, not access, begs the question of what in the world makes Obama and congressional Democrats think trading America’s problem for Britain’s problems — inaccessible care that is low-quality at best when it can even be obtained — would bear the remotest of resemblances to a good idea.

With his newfound focus on costs, Obama — the supposedly post-political politician — is simply doing what politicians do: tailoring the sales pitch to what polls show the American people want to hear. Obama’s health care overhaul proposal hasn’t changed as a result of its new, cost-centric packaging; rather, the bills being demanded by the president and written by Congress will still do even less to bring down health care costs than they will to cover the 45 million uninsured.

The fact is, poll results that stark made the Obama administration’s decision to forsake the millions of uninsured in favor of beating the drum of cost-deflating legislation an easy one to make, despite the high level of energy and political capital the president had invested in playing up the plight of those uninsured.

Obama’s switch in emphasis hasn’t lessened the force with which he is advocating for government-run health care, nor has it curbed his sense of urgency about the passage of his overhaul proposal. On Monday, July 20, he repeated his demand that Congress pass a government-centric health care overhaul bill by the beginning of the August 1 recess, despite the fact that none of the three bills currently being worked on in the House and Senate have been completely written. In that address, Obama also emphatically declared that lowering health care costs is — and always has been — his number one priority. “I’ve said this before,” he said. “Let me repeat: The bill I sign must reflect my commitment and the commitment of Congress to slow the growth of health care costs over the long run.”

Unfortunately for the 45 million uninsured, the sudden jolt they and their supporters just felt was the presidential carpet being yanked out from under their feet, as Obama recognized that he couldn’t ride their plight to legislative victory. Further, an analysis of the House and Senate health care overhaul bills by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that they would enable only about a third of Americans (about 16 million) currently lacking insurance to gain coverage — something that, along with the Rasmussen poll results, made Obama’s decision to drop their predicament from its place of honor at the center of his health care overhaul stump speech all the easier.

Unfortunately for President Obama and for the 62 percent of Americans who see high costs as the number one problem with our system, the bills that have been put forth by the congressional Democratic majority would increase taxes while doing nothing to lower health care costs. You don’t have to take my word for it; CBO director Doug Elmendorf reported in his July 16 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee that those bills would add significantly to the national deficit, while doing nothing to “reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.”

Unfortunately for the 100 percent of Americans who are consumers of health care, President Obama appears disinclined to back off his rigid insistence on trading the U.S.’s cost problem for Britain’s access, disease, and death problems — and on doing so as quickly as possible.

Were he to succeed in doing so, it would be an unfortunate outcome for all involved.