Word to the Wise: Don't Get Sick

Five committees in the House and Senate, a dozen subcommittee chairmen, uncounted individual Democratic legislators running the gamut from loony liberal to squishy moderate, and an army of lawyers, lobbyists, activists, and pundits have all labored to bring forth what they are referring to as "health care reform."

Predictably, when so many cooks are in the kitchen, what eventually ends up on your plate might be fare fit for a dog, but hardly a meal that is appetizing to other, more discerning species.

Contained in the 1,018 pages of the House health care bill are the seeds of destruction for small business, the most draconian interference in the personal lives of American citizens in history, the near certainty that innovation in the medical field will be severely curtailed, and the self-evident notion that health care will eventually be rationed. That last item might not be too bad. Perhaps the same agency we set up to ration energy can handle health care also.

Other than that, what's to complain about?

It's not like there aren't other means at hand to accomplish most of what these bills propose. If the major purpose of this legislation is to insure the uninsured, there are a half dozen alternatives to what amounts to an eventual government takeover of the entire health care industry. The Republicans actually have a comprehensive alternative of their own that, with a little work, would accomplish almost all of the goals espoused in the Democrats' legislation. Insurance pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions, generous tax credits for individuals and families to buy insurance, intelligent and market-driven ways to lower costs -- all without a "public option" or ruinous new taxes.

But the Republicans are paying the price for not taking their jobs seriously for the decade they were in power by having no one take them seriously now. The GOP alternative was ignored by media and Democrats alike.

What hath Congress wrought? Democrats are dismissing the idea that these bills represent a slippery slope to government-run health care. They are absolutely correct. This is a promenade off of a precipice. Nothing slippery about it. Nor can there be any other outcome eventually than a government takeover of the health care industry.

This will come gradually as the "public plan's" costs rise higher and higher and the subsidies paid to the beneficiaries also rise. This is what states like Massachusetts and Hawaii have experienced when they implemented statewide health care plans. Since there will be little or no savings the first few years of the plan (if ever), the government will be faced with the prospect of drastically increasing subsidies or dictating treatment choices -- in other words, rationing. They will also be forced into the business of dictating how much doctors and hospitals can charge for services in order to get a handle on costs at that end.

Result? A de facto government-run system that will deliver fewer services for more money.

Obama has mentioned several times that "we are out of money." He should know -- he spent it. But what this means is that paying for this gorgon of a plan in the years ahead will depend on the costs not rising faster than has been allowed for. The House plan calls for a 5.4% "surcharge" on people with incomes over a million dollars and smaller tax increases on those making more than $250,000. There is a provision to increase these surcharges in the next few years if needed.

But that accounts for only half the amount necessary to fund this monstrosity. Most of the other half of the cost will come from changes in Medicare. Since states are responsible for some Medicare costs, it stands to reason that state taxes are going to rise to pay for it.

At some point, raising taxes on the wealthy will become untenable and the rest of us will start to shell out. In the end, raising taxes to pay for health insurance will become counterproductive to economic growth and rationing health care will become part of life in America.