It is clear that our country needs health care reform. As insurance companies continue to absorb increased medical costs, insurance rates continue to climb several times higher than the rate of inflation. And although our Congress is currently considering health care reform, our two-party system continues to show vast disparities in solving our fiscal mess.
Contrary to liberal opinion, Republicans have offered effectual health care reform ideas. Led by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, they want to equalize tax the benefit differential between employees and employers by providing refundable tax credits to working families; they want to eliminate roadblocks that hinder individuals from pursuing better and more affordable insurance coverage in other states; and they want to provide more flexibility to small businesses so employees have more purchasing power to meet their individual health care needs.
Democrats have provided us the “public option.” On July 18th, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin argued that President Obama's Public Option is what Americans have dreamed of for years, and that we should seize the moment if we wanted real health care reform. However, I believe that the Public Option is one of the most destructive pieces of legislation ever proposed to Congress. If passed, the Public Option will destroy the private health insurance sector, exacerbate the budget deficit by increasing health care costs, and paralyze the ingenuity that has advanced medical science in America for years. Below, I will examine some of Baldwin's points and demonstrate what I feel are faulty assumptions.
In Baldwin’s article to the MJS, she made several statements that are worthy of consideration. Her first statement is as follows:
“Some thought this day would never come – and many are doing all they can to assure that it never will. But they are in the minority.”
Baldwin’s statement is false. According to Rasmussen, those who oppose government run health care are steady at 50%, while those who support it are in the minority at 35%. And the longer this bill falters in Congress, the more the disapproval margins increase.
Baldwin’s second statement is as follows:
“This week, key committees in the house of Representatives, including one on which I sit, have produced a plan for health care reform that promises to lower costs, provide better care and keep our insurance industry competitive and fair for all consumers.”
Baldwin makes three propositions that are clearly false. First, the bill sitting in the House may promise to lower costs, but the Congressional Budget Office has already estimated that it would increase health care costs one trillion dollars in just 10 years – a hike the CBO called “unsustainable.” Furthermore, in 1967, Americans were promised that Medicare would cost only $12 billion by 1990. However, it ended up costing American taxpayers over $110 billion by that year. The same promise was made about Medicaid in 1987 when they predicted it would cost 100 million by 1992, but it exceeded that amount by $11 billion.
Second, it is doubtful that government run health care will provide better care. Almost routinely, physicians turn away Medicare patients because the government pays below market costs. Nationwide, only 40% of doctors and hospitals accept Medicaid patients because payments are too slow. In a study in Anchorage, Alaska, 13 of 75 primary care doctors are willing to accept Medicare patients. Perhaps my math is a little fuzzy, but only 17% of doctors are willing to treat Medicare patients. Underpaying doctors isn’t the best way of procuring good results.
Third, the public option will not foster competition between the public and private sectors. Congressman Paul Ryan made a compelling argument that the public option will have a shrinking effect on the private market until it slowly turns into a single payer system. Here is how Paul Ryan puts it,
“Here is how it works: the federal government “option” would pay doctors and hospitals at below market prices in order to “control costs.” When the government short-changes doctors, the rest of us will be forced to make up the difference: those not on the government plan will have to pay more for the same care. If the government plan will only pay $60 to your doctor for a procedure that costs $100, then your doctor will be forced to charge you $140 for the same procedure to make up the difference. With costs continuing to mount, employers will increasingly find it more cost-effective to drop private coverage altogether and dump their employees into the government plan. In fact, one nonpartisan study by the Lewin Group has estimated that nearly 120 million Americans would lose their private health insurance under a public-plan-type scenario.“
Baldwin accurately stated that affordable health care is the number one concern of Wisconsinites. According to Rasmussen, 61% of voters nationwide believe that cost it the biggest problem with health care today, while only 21% believe it’s a lack of coverage. This is a tremendously important point here. People don’t think that universal health care is the answer, they think the answer is controlling the skyrocketing costs.
There are effective ways of lowering health care costs in the country. Paul Ryan's idea of refundable tax credits for working individuals and families will lower costs because it allows consumers to find a coverage plan that is uniquely crafted for them. For instance, why should young men have to pay for a plan that covers mammograms?
Also, there are other ideas such as Tort Reform. Wealthy trial lawyers have paid off the Democrat party to resist Tort reform, which if overhauled, would dramatically reduce medical liability costs. Obstetricians, neurosurgeons, and emergency physicians are most vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. For instance, it can cost an Ob-Gyn $209,000 a year to insure for the delivery of newborns. And this doesn’t account for the costs of superfluous testing procedures so doctors can cover themselves in case something atypical happens under their care.
News broke yesterday that the term “mentally retarded” was found on page 319 in a 1,000 page health care bill. This indicates that none of our representatives bothered to read even one-third of the bill. Do we need to pass legislation that makes it illegal to vote on a bill that wasn’t fully read? Do we need to institute a comprehension-competency test on legislation before they are eligible to vote? Suddenly, voting “present” doesn’t seem that bad, does it?
Certainly, as more time elapses more errors will be found in this health care bill. Already, sites like Warning Signs have begun to publish the problems in the Public Option bill on a page by page basis. A few examples should suffice: page 29 admits that health care will be rationed. Page 59 states that the federal government will have access to all individual bank accounts for electronic transfers. Page 95, the government will pay ACORN to recruit people for the government plan. Page 149 states that any employer with a payroll larger than $400,000 must enroll their employees in a health care plan or pay a 8% tax on payroll. Page 167 states that if you do not have "acceptable" health care, you will be penalized with an additional 2.5% tax on your income.
And folks, this is just the first 200 pages of the bill. The problems go on and on. When this legislation starts to hit the fan, I hope that Tammy Baldwin will own up to it. After all, Baldwin has publicly admitted to crafting this legislation so her constituents will know where to find her when they discover the true extent of its deficiency and noxiousness to the public well being.