Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board wrote one of the most egregious op-eds in recent memory. Of course, it is natural that editorials are driven by personal opinion, but this is not the problem. The problem is when the editorial board builds its analysis on the assumption that "there has been very little light shed" on Obama's health care plan. In fact, they summed up their commentary by telling us, "if you want to protect your interests, first know what they are by getting informed."
Of course, getting informed means not listening to "merchants of fear" that have been "working the crowds." Instead, we are supposed to trust the Democrats who haven't read the bill and a President who stacks his own town halls fearing that a person (gasp) might actually ask him to expound on a section in the 1,018 page document that people with even Harvard educations cannot understand.
As a side note, it's interesting that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't complain when Democrats tried to ram H.R. 3200 through Congress before people knew what was in the bill. I don't recall an editorial criticizing Obama's capricious time line on the grounds that the public didn't have sufficient time "to protect their interests by getting informed".
Anyway, getting back to the topic. The JSOnline editorial takes on the three "most egregious claims" in an effort to clear up concoctions that come "from the intentional misreading of the House bill H.R. 3200". So, I will go through and examine each of these concoctions to give an alternative point of view because heaven forbid they listen to Congressman Paul Ryan who has written about H.R. 3200 extensively in the Racine Journal Times. So let's get to work.
On the issue of whether the House Bill will lead to euthanasia, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says this:
"Fact: The House bill would extend coverage through Medicare for optional 'advanced care planning' with a doctor every five years. Such discussions likely would include 'advanced directives,' or instructions that people can put in writing for what kind of care they want if they should become incapacitated. The bill's language is designed to ensure that a patient's wishes are respected at end of life. We urge you to have a living will so that your wishes are known, but no one is going to force you to get one."
This response entirely misses the point of contention. The problem that people like Sarah Palin have with "end of life" issues in H.R. 3200 is obvious. It's almost natural for government-run health care, as a way to reduce uncontrolled spending, to ration care. As a logical corollary, when you extend health care coverage to 47 million more people, you will need more care providers, including doctors and specialists to tend to their needs. And when the demand overcomes the supply, which will happen, you get rationing.
It's a great thing that we don't have to rely on just logic; we see rationing in almost every industrialized nation that subsidizes universal health care coverage. So why would it be surprising when critics allege the same thing about the Public Option?
How rationing fits into this equation is that "end of life counseling" in H.R. 3200 is for the purpose of reducing health care costs. For this reason, doctors will receive incentive pay to initiate such counseling. It's a little known fact that it costs "far more to prolong the lives of the elderly" ($145,000 per year gained) than the young ($31,600). In fact, these numbers are based upon the analysis of David Cutler, one of Obama's advisers. So we can reasonably assume that Obama is aware of these costs.
So, it doesn't take a terrible leap of faith to assume that doctors will receive incentives to persuade geriatric patients to accept minimal treatment plans. When we hear stories of a woman giving birth on sidewalk in England because the emergency response department was rationing their services, it's not really a leap in logic that they would do the same for the elderly. Concerning the pregnant mother, the ambulance company actually told her to walk to the hospital because she "had 9 months to sort out a lift".
On the issue of whether Obamacare is socialism, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says this:
"Fact: Private insurance is the foundation upon which each of the plans now under discussion is built. The House bill includes a 'public option' to compete with private insurers. Whether this option is a threat to them depends entirely on the details - especially on reimbursement rates. With the right controls, we're open to a public option.
We have concerns with the structure of the House bill, especially whether it does enough to control costs. But by no credible definition of the word can it be called socialistic - no more than Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security can be called socialistic."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is right to criticize the allegation that H.R. 3200 is socialistic. I would rephrase it by saying that H.R. 3200 is a major step in the direction toward socialism - especially when we consider what they've done to the banks and auto industry in the past few months.
The problem with H.R. 3200, as I stated in a number of op-eds already, is the "Public" part of the Public Option. Since government doesn't have to pay taxes and doesn't have to pay "at market" prices to medical facilities, it makes it impossible for private insurance companies to compete. When employers begin to drop their insurance coverage because premiums are artificially inflated by the government's participation in the program, employees will go to the public plan by default. It won't take long before the private market shrivels up. At that point, we can accurately call it socialized medicine.
The MJS Editorial Board qualifies their statement by saying "With the right controls, we're open to the public option." But in this situation, the right controls means terminating the public option entirely. It's unfortunate that the editorial board can't see what's right in front of them.
On the issue of whether Obamacare is rationing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says this:
"Fact: Opponents point to efforts to use comparative effectiveness research as evidence people won't be able to get the care they need. But the idea of such research is simply to determine what works best and then give doctors and hospitals that information. The idea is to direct precious dollars to treatments that work and away from those that are not as effective.
Some opponents also question the idea of giving real teeth to a Medicare advisory board, which would have the power to reduce spending in the program. This may be the closest Congress comes to rationing, but it's an honest attempt to rein in runaway Medicare spending.
Finally, there is this annoying fact that opponents often overlook: There is rationing now. Insurers decide what to pay for and who to cover. By banning the ability to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, for example, there would be less rationing under health care reform."
The annoying little fact is that comparing rationing in the private industry to rationing in the government is comparing apples to sledgehammers. In the private industry, rationing means you can still get medical care "on time" by a doctor "of choice" and deal with cost and coverage issues "at your own convenience." In health care systems like we see in Canada and the U.K., rationed care doesn't work this way. Has anyone heard of private insurance companies rationing necessary vascular surgeries in an attempt to make up for budgetary shortfalls? Well, this is already happening in Canada.
Bottom line, there are too many factors to count that the MJS Editorial Board just has not taken into consideration when they intentionally ignore controversial sections in H.R. 3200. Instead of misguidedly focusing on fictitious "fear merchants" funded by special interest groups, they need to open up their eyes and notice that people don't want government-run health care.
The number one problem with our health care system is increasing costs, not the fact that 47 million people are uninsured (which is more like 10-15 million when we factor out illegals and those who intentionally choose not to be insured). Has anyone noticed that Democrats have tried to solve a cost problem by extending coverage to more people? That makes about as much sense as a grocery story saving money by giving away their products for free.