On August 8th, Senator Herb Kohl wrote a piece for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled, “We Must Embrace Reform Now.” In the article, he argues that the spiraling costs of health care requires immediate action or else the consequences will consume our economy and personal budgets. The full length of his editorial was 14 paragraphs, however it can be summed up in the following sentence. In comparison to other industrialized nations, our current health care system is so expensive and inefficient that now is the time to give government greater control of our health care industry while expanding insurance coverage to most, if not all, Americans. For Senator Kohl, forfeiting more control to the government while expanding coverage to 45 million more citizens is somehow supposed to save money and eliminate the current threat of swelling insurance premiums.
Granted Herb Kohl is no Paul Ryan, but there should be a reasonable expectation state representatives will provide substantive responses to current concerns in society. But Kohl's editorial did not do this. Below are some of the assertions that Kohl made while arguing for the Public Option
Kohl 1. “Over the past several weeks, people in Washington have been working to carefully craft a health care reform package.”
This is not true. On July 14, H.R. 3200 (The Public Option) was introduced to two House committees - the Ways & Means and the House Education & Labor Committees. Three days later, both committees marked up and passed the bill putting it in the lap of the House Energy & Commerce committee. It took just three days for both House committees to unpack and digest 1,018 pages of the most substantial health care reform bill in U.S. history. That is not carefully crafting a bill.
Kohl 2. “We currently rank 44th in infant mortality and 30th in life expectancy, with the average American living to be 78 years of age. By comparison, Japan spends $2,550 on health care per person each year – just over a third of what the U.S. spends – and boasts a life expectancy of 83 years.”
Kohl's inference is misleading and is a "fallacy of exclusion." Obesity is one of the most significant factors that contribute to a shortened life expectancy. Studies have shown that obesity can shave up to 10 years from one's life. And currently, U.S. obesity rates are the highest in the industrialized world at 30.6%. Ironically, Japan’s obesity rate is the lowest in the industrialized world at 3.2% (tied only with South Korea). Essentially, Senator Kohl selected a nation with the lowest obesity rates and compared its life expectancy numbers to the U.S. while neglecting to factor in obesity. And now he is asking his constituents to trust him after he has manipulated health care facts.
Kohl 3. “Many money saving ideas are not controversial. The fact is that there is a lot that we can all agree on. We agree that we need to expand coverage to most, if not all Americans.”
This is not true. Last week, Rasmussen reported that only 28% of Americans are willing to pay more taxes to expand health care coverage to everyone. In other words, people are willing to extend health care insurance to everyone, unless of course, it involves a tax increase. And since the CBO recently reported that the current health care proposal would cause future budget deficits to become unsustainable, it's reasonable to conclude that the current plan will cause a tax hike. Interestingly, Rasmussen just released a poll today that the approval rating for the Congressional health care proposal has dropped 8 points in just six weeks. 44% of citizens now strongly oppose Obama's health care initiative while only 26% favor it. Senator Kohl is wrong to assert that we can agree to expand health care to most, if not all, Americans.
Kohl 4. “Seniors are happy with Medicare. In fact, Medicare, a government program, boasts a satisfaction rate even higher than private insurance.”
What Senator Kohl fails to mention is that Medicare, along with Medicaid and Social Security, accounts for 80% of total U.S. spending increases. Although Seniors are happy with Medicare, it's unreasonable to model our health care system after an entitlement program that is becoming unsustainable. The CBO stated,
“For the past 50 years, federal outlays have averaged about 20 percent of GDP. The fiscal year 2007, those outlays totaled $2.7 trillion. Not only has the amount of such spending grown, but its composition has changed dramatically. Spending for mandatory programs has increased from less than one-third of total federal outlays in the early 1960s to more than one-half in recent years. Most of that growth has been concentrated in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Together, gross outlays for those programs now account for about 45% of federal outlays, compared with 2 percent in 1950 (before the health programs were created) and 25 percent in 1975."
Kohl 5. “ As for the rumors out there about how health care will be drastically changed for the worse, you can rest assured: Health care reform will not limit choices, take away treatment options, ration care, eliminate private insurance, or tell you how or when to die. These things are not going to happen.”
In the first paragraph of his editorial, Senator Kohl said this:
“Please be aware that neither the House nor the Senate has formulated one bill, and that no final decisions have been made about what will be included in health reform.”
If Congress didn’t formulate the current bill and no final decisions have been made, then how can Senator Kohl assure us that our choices will not be limited, that our care will not be rationed, and that private insurance companies will not be eliminated? Senator Kohl is not in the position to guarantee outcomes he cannot control. Congressman Paul Ryan has effectively argued that private insurance companies cannot compete against the federal government because, in spite of making all the rules, the government does not pay taxes; the government does not pay market prices to medical facilities; and the government does not have to compete as a free market employer. How would Senator Kohl respond to Ryan's criticism? This is indeed one of the most important questions that needs an answer.