Crunch Time for Health Care: Now It's Up to Us

It's coming to crunch time for the centerpiece of Obama's legislative agenda for his first year: nationalizing health care. Will he get away with it? Really, it's up to us. America is still, even now, a sort of democracy, and our rulers in Washington still serve at our pleasure, notwithstanding the decades-long reign of the Byrds, Kennedys, Inyoues, Leahys, et al. Remember that. And if haven't done so yet, consider joining ThrowTheBumsOut.org

But as the battle over who is to control another one-sixth of the U.S. economy -- you or the bureaucrats in Washington -- as this battle approaches its denouement, I'd like to offer a couple points for reflection.

For an overview of the entire debate, let me recommend Dr. David Gratzer's "Why Obama's Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster,"

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the first of a new series of Broadsides from Encounter Books.

The pamphlet has just rolled off the press and will be coming to a book emporium near you any day. It's available for pre-order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and will soon be in stores and available for download via Kindle and other electronic readers.

Also, please read John Hinderaker's piece at Powerline.com on the report issued by Price-WaterhouseCoopers on what the health care bill currently being debated by the Senate would mean for you and your wallet. Bottom line: it would mean a lot of money.

As Hinderaker dryly observes, "PWC concluded that the cost of health insurance for the average family will rise by $4,000 by 2019, as compared with doing nothing." He supplies this handy graphic to illustrate the point:

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One of the most often repeated assertions from TeamObama about their proposed "reform" of health care has been that individuals would be able to keep their current health insurance if they so desired. But this, to employ Joe Wilson's colorful characterization, is a lie. As Hinderaker shows, the Baucus plan before the Senate, combining a "weak mandate" to buy insurance with "a strong requirement on the insurance industry that it insure everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions or state of health," would "devastate" the private insurance industry.

What is meant by a "weak mandate" is that, in the current version of the Baucus bill, there is no requirement to buy health insurance at all until after 2013, and by 2017 the penalty for failing to buy health insurance still amounts to only about 15% of the cost of the insurance. Now, think about it: if you know that you don't have to buy health insurance when you are young and healthy, but if you should get sick, or just get older, you can apply for health insurance at any time and it will be illegal for the insurance company to turn you down, what would you do? Obviously, you would defer buying insurance unless and until you get sick. This means that the pool of those who are insured will be lower quality, and the cost therefore higher for everyone who buys insurance. It is as though you could wait until you die, and then your heirs can buy life insurance on you.

As Hinderaker observes, "This isn't reform, it is stupidity."

What, then, should the government do? In brief, it should get out of the way. Improving the delivery of health care, if that is what we care about, really isn't that difficult. (I say "if" because the real goal is only incidentally concerned with health care: the real goal is extending government control over your life.) First, go after the trial lawyers: cap malpractice judgments and severely limit what lawyers can take away in fees. Second, let the market, i.e., let competition, work in the insurance industry. "It actually would be very easy to make health insurance cheaper," Hinderaker points out.

All we have to do is allow insurance companies to compete nationally instead of state-by-state and eliminate all mandates that limit consumer choice. It has been estimated that these simple reforms -- which are not part of any of the Democrats' "reform" bills, for obvious reasons -- would reduce health care costs by one-quarter to one-third. Instead of such common-sense reforms, the Dems are proposing Rube Goldberg measures that will make health care more expensive. Instead of eliminating mandates, their measures, including the Baucus bill, increase them -- in effect making cheaper health insurance illegal.

Of course, all these details about the cost of insurance, who must do what for whom when and how much it will cost, is a bureaucratic spaghetti. The complication -- what John Hinderaker aptly refers to as the "Rube Goldberg" aspect of the whole debate -- is deliberate. It is meant to stun, confuse, obfuscate, and depress. Clobber the slobs with a miasma of conflicting proposals whose ultimate aim is lost in the mists of ill-defined mandates and sooner or later many people will throw up their hands in submission.

Before you do that, however, let Obama advisor Robert Reich tell you what's really going to happen if ObamaCare becomes a reality (h/t Instapundit). The year is 2007. Reich tells an appreciative audience "What an Honest President Would Say about Health Care Reform." Reich himself is not wholly candid, for he begins with the bizarre and dishonest observation that the U.S. health care system is the only one in the world designed to avoid caring for sick people. But leave that big lie to one side. Here's what Obama's advisor thinks is the "truth" about what needs to be done to improve U.S. health care.

--Young and healthy people will have to pay more;

--The old will be denied various drugs and technology: "we are," Reich said to a round of applause, "going to let you die."

--The government will pressure drug companies and the medical establishment to bring costs down, with the result that there would be less medical innovation and fewer new drugs in the future. Probably, you will not live longer than your parents as most generations in that past could reasonably have hoped to do: get used to it.

Think I am making it up? Listen to the master in his own words:

Brutal? Moderately. But this is the Age of Obama, the age of diminished expectations for Americans. Remember, Obama swept into office promising to "fundamentally transforming the United States of American."

In only nine months, he's done an amazing job. He has made us poorer, less secure, and less free. If his proposal to let the government gobble up health care goes through, it will be another step down the road Obama calls Hope and Change. I think Friedrich Hayek came closer to the truth when he called it The Road to Serfdom.