Friday, March 6, 2009

President Obama’s Stealth Plan to Socialize Health Care

Campaigning in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this past summer, then-candidate Barack Obama told a 1,800 person town hall meeting: “If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system.” So while President Barack Obama indicated yesterday that he is open to altering his health plan, Americans should always keep in mind what President Obama’s true end goal really is. And after just six weeks in office he has already made two significant steps towards that goal. If Americans hope to retain and expand their right to make their own health care decisions, there are two elements of President Obama’s future health care reform that must be avoided at all costs.

This past August the U.S. Census Bureau released a study the results of which will probably surprise many Americans listening to the rhetoric from yesterday’s White House health care forum. Both the rate and number of people without health insurance declined from 15.8% in 2006 to 15.3% in 2007. The reason for this drop? The percent of Americans with private health insurance is on the decline, mostly as a result of the steady erosion of employer-based coverage, while the percentage of Americans with government insurance is rising even faster. This trend is due entirely to the never ending expansion of government run health care eligibility and the inevitable private sector crowd-out that accompanies government growth.

President Obama achieved an acceleration of this trend when he signed into law an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that removed requirements that participants either be poor or a child. But President Obama’s call to create a public health care plan that will “compete” with private plans is far worse. According to a study by the Lewin Group a public health plan open to all Americans and set at Medicare reimbursement levels would force 118.5 million Americans out of private health care and into socialized medicine.

But the steady substitution of private health care for a government run plan is only half of the socialized medicine equation. As even President Obama noted yesterday, expanding government health care to more and more Americans will be extremely expensive. That is where the health care rationing comes in. President Obama already laid the groundwork for health care rationing by dramatically expanding funding for the Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) council in the stimulus bill, and even without former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) his health care plan will include a Federal Health Board that will turn that research into regulation. There is no reason why private-sector or government officials should not have access to the best information on what works and what doesn’t. Nor is there any reason why such scientific evaluations should not be widely available to doctors and patients alike. But President Obama has made it clear he intends to use the data from CER to control health care costs from Washington in a completely top down fashion. Daschle was frank about this fact in his health care book: “Doctors and patients might resent any encroachment on their ability to choose certain treatments.”

So that is the two pronged approach to the ultimate goal of nationalized medicine in America. Quietly expand the percentage of Americans that are in government run health care and then, when the costs inevitably explode, have unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington ration care. There is an alternative. Some of which the Obama Administration even supports like removing the tax benefit of employer-sponsored health care coverage. Removing this regressive tax benefit will untie Americans health care coverage from their employers and help move the country towards a truly market based consumer driven health care model. Health care coverage can be expanded in a cost efficient manner, but only by empowering Americans to make health care decisions with their doctors.

Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell.

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