Government intervention broke healthcare. Now they claim even more will fix it?

08/23/2009

Former Libertarian Presidential Nominee Harry Browne often said, 'Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you crutches, and say, "See, if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk!"

"Libertarians agree with the diagnosis that there are problems with healthcare affordability and coverage. But disagree with Democrats and Senator Claire McCaskill on the cure. Rather than remove the cancerous tumor of government regulation and control of healthcare, Democrats propose amputating both arms and legs, and then giving you a government approved wheel chair," stated Missouri LP spokesperson, Dr. Cisse Spragins.

The Obama Administration seems intent upon making the profligate spending of the Bush Administration seem modest by comparison, which will be quite an accomplishment. During the campaign, then Senator Obama promised to debate healthcare "in public and on C-Span". Instead, the Administration has had 27 private meetings with pharmaceutical industry lobbyists. The end result: A promise that any legislation passed will forbid the government from using its massive purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. This is essentially the same deal that the Bush Administration cut in order to pass the Medicare drug benefit, which has been a bonanza for the drug companies. In return, the pharmaceutical industry will commit $150 million in advertising to promote the plan. This is corporate welfare at its finest. "It's wonderful to see the government being so generous with the taxpayers' money," noted Missouri LP spokesperson, Dr. Cisse Spragins, with sarcasm.

Irrespective of the "public option" on which the Administration is now back-pedaling, the proposed reform still represents a massive overhaul of the healthcare industry, which will serve to exacerbate the existing problems. The current proposal will:

  • Likely cost 2-3 times the CBO's estimate of $1+ trillion over 10 years. This estimate assumes that the full program will not be implemented until a few years into the 10-year period. And history tells us these estimates are routinely off by a factor of two or more. This cost is in addition to the existing unfunded liability for Medicare and Social Security, which is in excess of $50 trillion.
  • Make the recent advances in consumer driven healthcare, through Health Savings Accounts which have grown rapidly, illegal.
  • Allow government to decide by statistics, who can be readmitted to the hospital for a given condition (i.e. when enough people with that condition have been discharged, then additional people may be admitted.) Simply put, this is rationing. And no judicial review of these decisions is allowed.
  • Prohibit hospitals from expanding without government permission.
  • Assess a special tax on anyone without acceptable coverage, with no room for choice in what constitutes acceptable coverage. For example, coverage MUST include prescription drugs, maternity care, and substance abuse counseling. Mandating coverage whether or not it is wanted or needed will dramatically increase costs across the board.
  • Force employers to provide insurance up to the government standards or pay additional payroll tax of up to 8%. The 8% level applies for annual payroll of $400,000 or more, or about 10 employees.
  • Allow the government unlimited authority to set prices
  • Require employers to provide any information the government deems it necessary on employees to enforce the plan.
  • Require any doctor who orders durable medical equipment or home medical supplies to enroll as a Medicare provider, thus preventing doctors from "opting out" of the system
  • Create "home visitation programs" wherein government employees will visit families with young children and expectant mothers.

The above list represents only a few of the provisions of this bill, which is clearly about a complete government takeover of healthcare, versus simply a way to provide healthcare for low income persons.

The problems of healthcare today are the legacy of government intervention in the healthcare market, not failures of the market. The US has long been considered the world's gold standard for healthcare. However, in the '60's Medicare and Medicaid were introduced, which effectively eliminated any private market for affordable healthcare for the elderly or the indigent. Then, in the '70's, collusion between the medical establishment, drug companies and politicians created the whole HMO / managed care system in an effort to move us further toward a "universal care" system. This completely unnecessary level of corporatism dramatically increases costs and worsens care. Healthcare is no longer simply between doctors and patients, it is now about medical corporations, insurance companies, regulations, tort law and mountains of paperwork.

Healthcare began to be illogically coupled to employment in the 1940's when companies began to offer hospitalization insurance as a way to get around salary caps imposed by government. In 1974 the ERISA law was passed, which granted tax benefits to corporations for providing health insurance, without offering the same benefits to individuals. As a result, insurers have little incentive to cater to the actual consumers of care, when they are paid by a third party. Nearly 50% of all dollars spent on healthcare today are already spent by the government. Most of the rest is spent by employers. It is no surprise that health insurers and providers don't seem to cater to the needs of consumers.

To solve the problems of healthcare, the damage inflicted by government must be reversed. Following are a few of the steps that will begin to undo the damage:

  • Make healthcare costs fully deductible for individuals, like they currently are for corporations.
  • Allow individuals to buy and use insurance from companies in any State. This will increase competition among insurance companies. Currently, there is very little effective competition in most major metropolitan markets.
  • Remove all government imposed mandates on what must be covered in insurance policies. This drives up costs across the board and decreases competition among insurers.
  • Remove legal barriers to the creation of Health Savings Accounts and increase the limits for deductibility of contributions. A return to high deductible, catastrophic-only coverage will make consumers far more attuned to medical costs and the market will respond accordingly.
  • Remove the AMA's monopoly on accreditation of doctors and allow competing accreditation organizations. This will greatly expand the range of options available to consumers.
  • Remove government subsidies to agriculture. They currently encourage the production of high volumes of cheap processed carbohydrates and other unhealthy foods.

In order to be free from government rationing and total government control, people must be responsible for their healthcare and health choices. Some 70% of healthcare costs today are expended on conditions that are largely preventable through diet and lifestyle choices. Subsidizing poor choices is not the way to decrease costs and improve health outcomes. And, of course, there isn't nearly enough of "other people's money" to fund such a program.

"It is refreshing to see the citizenry expressing their outrage at town hall meetings," noted Dr. Spragins. "People need to understand their power to effect change." After all, as Thomas Jefferson said, "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is liberty."

Of course in response to citizens expressing their views, The Democrats' first tried to portray the meetings as being somehow "centrally planned" by special interest groups. Is this perhaps because they are unable to imagine anything happening without it being "centrally planned"? When it became clear that this was not the case, they have resorted to saying that protestors are just racist. This is truly pathetic. Could it perhaps be that these people simply do not want even more government interference in their lives?

The best that the predictably tone-deaf Republican politicians can come up with is "gee, we can't let private health insurance companies disappear", which hardly captures the heart of the average citizen. Republican politicians are, of course, fully vested in the status quo, since they, as much as the Democrats, have been responsible for the massive corporate welfare bestowed upon the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry which has contributed to the current mess.

"In the end, people need to ask themselves, if they are unhappy with their medical care, do they think they would have a better chance of improvement by changing doctors or insurance companies, or by voting against their incumbent political "representatives" in the next election," Dr. Spragins said, "because in a system of total government control over healthcare, that will be the only option." "Voters also need to understand that voting for either of the major parties that are responsible for this mess will not solve the problem. Real change cannot come from the status quo."

The Missouri Libertarian Party is an established political party in the State of Missouri and is affiliated with The Libertarian Party.

Contact Name: 
Cisse W. Spragins, Ph.D., Missouri Libertarian Party Spokesperson
Contact Phone: 
612 309 9232
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