Friday, February 25, 2011

Real Healthcare Reform

March 20, 2010

The healthcare legislation that the President and Congressional Democrat leadership are tying themselves in knots to cobble together out of parliamentary gymnastics, multi-billion dollar bribes, threats and coercion, union favors, back room bargaining, constant condescending preaching, demonization of opponents, outright lies, supplying fraudulent information and assumptions to the CBO, and for all we know, duct tape, chewing gum and bailing wire, all while not even fully knowing what is in it, is not about healthcare. It is a last-ditch attempt to salvage what was supposed to be the signature issue of the Obama presidency and realize a century-old dream of the left for the Federal government to be the lord, father figure and provider for every American. It is a Trojan horse that will lay the groundwork for further enormous expansions of government size, power, control and entitlements. It will give government unprecedented control over every aspect of our lives that could even remotely be tied to healthcare. (Like cigars? Rock climbing? Motorcycling?). It is opposed by a clear majority of Americans and has bipartisan opposition in Congress (no such bipartisan support exists for it). I humbly submit that if the issue were really the health of the American people, rather than a codification of the Left's hatred of private enterprise, Congress would immediately drop this multi-thousand page Frankenstein monstrosity into the dustbin of history and reform our health coverage system by doing four things, at zero cost to the taxpayer:

1. Eliminate the antitrust exemptions for the insurance companies, prohibitions on interstate purchasing and State mandates on coverage. If this single step happened, consumers would be able to choose exactly what type of coverage they wanted. Why should a retired man or post-menopausal woman, for example, be forced to purchase a plan that covers contraception and obstetrics? If you could choose, would you buy a plan that covers everthing down to doctor visits for sniffles, or would you cover only serious or catastrophic illness and use the savings as you see fit? You should be able to choose. Can you imagine if health insurance companies had to compete with hundreds of other companies in a marketplace similar to the one for car insurance? Consumers can regulate a consumer-product industry far better than government can. For a better-written and staggeringly commonsense take on this item, see the March 17, 2010 column at Incidentally, the amount and form of compensation from a company to its employees, including whether or not a company provides or contributes to health insurance for them, should be subject to the mutual agreement of both and no one else, period.

2. Reform medical malpractice laws, not to eliminate lawsuits for actual malpractice as opponents claim, but to allow doctors to make decisions based on what is best for the patient, not to continually work in a combative, defensive state of protecting themselves and their employers from predatory litigation.

There is no such thing as a "right" to healthcare anymore than there is a "right" to be happy, although we have the right to pursue happiness. You do not have a lien on other people's wealth and labor to provide you with healthcare. However, we are a civilized and compassionate nation, and so most of us would not be willing for anyone to suffer because of a real inability to afford healthcare. If we as a nation believe that everyone should have healthcare, then this is my answer:

3. Provide a safety net for those people who truly cannot afford coverage (even under the vastly lower prices that would result from real, competitive, free market system) by providing tax credits or tailored vouchers toward the purchase of private insurance plans. Even if someone is receiving aid, that aid should not go straight from the government to the provider - the aid recipient should be the one to fork over the payment. This would get government out of the equation, force people receiving the government aid to be an active participant in making sure they get the best care for the taxpayers' dollar and eliminate the problem of ever-shrinking reimbursements to doctors and pharmacies for services to Medicare and Medicaid recipients. This safety net would also be how we provide for people suffering from pre-existing conditions. A single-payer system would insert government bureaucrats right into the very center of a highly personal transaction in which they have no business, constitutional or otherwise. Single-payer guarantees a lord/serf relationship between government and the governed. Europe has a long history of serfdom, only relatively recently changed, but it is the exact opposite of the American ideal and what America needs. America has a different history, character and set of founding ideals from Europe, and we need American solutions to our problems.

4. Require themselves and every other member of the Federal government to have whatever kind of healthcare coverage they mandate for the rest of us. The fact that they refuse to do this now speaks volumes.

These are representative of the kind of ideas GOP senators and representatives have been advocating for years now, but in this year's debate they were utterly stonewalled by the President and the newsmedia. I'm no expert on the issue and my expression of these ideas are admittedly simplistic, but at their core is a common-sense desire to reverse the trend of ever-expanding government size, reach and power that I believe is completely consistent with the founding ideals of our nation.

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