There are two horrendous government bills being considered at the moment. Both deserve an immediate and decisive death. One is the ETS bill which Rudd wants Australia to pass. It, like the Copenhagen proposals, will be utter disaster for all of us. It will do nothing to help the climate, and will simply be a $120 billion tax slug on all Australians.
The second bill is Obama’s health care bill. This is another monstrosity which needs to be soundly rejected. It is a lousy bill which is unlikely to make any improvement to American health care. But it is another massive government grab of tax dollars.
Indeed, there have been countless myths in circulation regarding health care in the US in general and Obama’s bill in particular. The fuzzy thinking on this topic is quite alarming actually. As but one example, a writer in a conservative Australian publication recently called on Americans to embrace higher taxes, and praised the Obama plan.
He then went on to make this incredible claim: “60 million Americans lack adequate health cover”. This statement is quite misleading for a number of reasons. Let me explain:
While accurate numbers on these matters are quite hard to come by, the common figure is 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance. But that figure itself needs to be carefully teased out. Many of these are simply people in between jobs, and when they do get another job, their employer will offer health insurance.
But we do know that at least 18 million of these Americans earn more than $50,000 a year. Also, some 10 million of the 46 million are not even American citizens. And another 14 million are eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. Moreover, young Americans especially often choose not to be insured.
So that leaves some 8 million Americans (out of a total population of 308 million – or just 2.6 %), who are chronically uninsured. So there is a relatively small group of Americans who do need help, but more Federal bureaucracy and red tape is not the way to help these people. We already have the enormous failures of socialised medicine in places like Canada and England to serve as a warning of not going down this path.
And of course even the poorest American cannot be denied treatment in an emergency room, and so on. Annual Government spending for the uninsured amounts to $31 billion. And as Thomas Sowell points out, the ready availability of medical care, regardless of health insurance, acts as a disincentive for people to become insured.
So we need to tread much more carefully here before we start trumpeting ObamaCare, including its provisions for Federal funding of abortion. Fortunately I am not alone in this. Many other critics have shared their concerns. A recent article by Charles Krauthammer is well worth quoting from here.
He argues that Obama’s bill is “irredeemable” and should be killed off immediately. He begins his incisive article this way: “The United States has the best health care in the world — but because of its inefficiencies, also the most expensive. The fundamental problem with the 2,074-page Senate health-care bill (as with its 2,014-page House counterpart) is that it wildly compounds the complexity by adding hundreds of new provisions, regulations, mandates, committees, and other arbitrary bureaucratic inventions.
“Worse, they are packed into a monstrous package without any regard to each other. The only thing linking these changes — such as the 118 new boards, commissions, and programs — is political expediency. Each must be able to garner just enough votes to pass. There is not even a pretense of a unifying vision or conceptual harmony.”
After looking at some of the specific problems, he offers a better way: “First, tort reform. This is money — the low-end estimate is about half a trillion per decade — wasted in two ways. Part is simply hemorrhaged into the legal system to benefit a few jackpot lawsuit winners and an army of extravagantly rich malpractice lawyers such as John Edwards.
“The rest is wasted within the medical system in the millions of unnecessary tests, procedures, and referrals undertaken solely to fend off lawsuits — resources wasted on patients who don’t need them and which could be redirected to the uninsured who really do.”
One more reform: “Second, even more simple and simplifying, abolish the prohibition against buying health insurance across state lines. Some states have very few health insurers. Rates are high. So why not allow interstate competition? After all, you can buy oranges across state lines. If you couldn’t, oranges would be extremely expensive in Wisconsin, especially in winter.
“And the answer to the resulting high Wisconsin orange prices wouldn’t be the establishment of a public option — a federally run orange-growing company in Wisconsin — to introduce ‘competition.’ It would be to allow Wisconsin residents to buy Florida oranges. But neither bill lifts the prohibition on interstate competition for health insurance. Because this would obviate the need — the excuse — for the public option, which the left wing of the Democratic party sees (correctly) as the royal road to fully socialized medicine.”
He concludes, “Insuring the uninsured is a moral imperative. The problem is that the Democrats have chosen the worst possible method — a $1 trillion new entitlement of stupefying arbitrariness and inefficiency. The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing. and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.”
While there are heaps of problems with Obama’s plan, it is good to see alternatives being thought about and proposed. Indeed, whole books have been written on how we might fix things. Let me close with a few suggested titles for starters:
Sally Pipes, The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care. Pacific Research Institute, 2008.
Paul Gratzer, The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care. Encounter Books, 2006.
Thomas Sowell, Applied Economics, revised ed. Basic Books, 2009, (Chapter 3, “The Economics of Medical Care”).