Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ObamaCare: The End of the Beginning

The passage into law of ObamaCare marked not the end of the national debate over government-run vs. free market healthcare, but only the end of the beginning. The real debate begins with its phased-in enactment.

Over time, as ObamaCare's provisions begin to take hold, its supporters will attempt to build support for it by pointing to the alleged benefits the new law will bring. (Supporters must build support after the fact, because it was passed amidst an avalanche of public antipathy.) To build support, and thus reduce the chance for major revisions or outright repeal, supporters must resort to utterly dishonest tactics.

Freedom's advocates should not follow in the well-worn footsteps of American conservatism by simply accepting the ObamaCare federal takeover of medicine, and then moving on to the next fight against advancing socialism. Instead, we should recognize that equivocation and compromise won't do any longer. We are getting too close the national precipice, beyond which lies the historic downward acceleration into civil strife and totalitarian socialism (if we have not already reached that tipping point).

In his TOS article, How to Protect Yourself Against ObamaCare, Paul Hsieh makes these crucial points:

Many Americans assume that once a government program has been created, it can never be repealed. But this assumption is false. Laws of Congress are not laws of nature; any law passed by Congress can also be repealed by Congress.

Advocates of freedom and quality health care must not allow ObamaCare supporters to spin the truth or avoid responsibility for problems they created.

With these two points in mind, let’s dissect a recent NJ Star-Ledger editorial entitled, Obamacare delivers for New Jersey. It is loaded with evasiveness and dishonesty. Let’s start with this:

[Governor Chris Christie] welcomed the $141 million [from the federal government] that is a first installment of the many benefits [ObamaCare] will bring to the state.

This money, though a small piece of the puzzle, will help 21,000 people who have pre-existing health problems like cancer or diabetes and cannot afford insurance. Unlike most states, New Jersey already requires insurers to sell to these customers. But the price can be prohibitive.

ObamaCare Delivers the Loot. That’s what the title should read. Where did the $141 million come from, and by what means? No answer. In typical fashion, politicians are lauded for practicing charity with other peoples’ tax money – money taken by force of legalized theft.

Who are the recipients of the loot? 21,000 people with "pre-existing conditions" - medical ailments contracted prior to the purchase of a health insurance policy. Why must they pay “prohibitive” insurance premiums? As the editorial acknowledges, NJ “requires insurers to sell to these customers”. What is not stated is that most of the 21,000 people would be insurable at competitive rates if insurers were free to exclude pre-existing conditions or offer other arrangements (ex. - Include a rider delaying coverage until the policy had been in force for a specified period of time. The person would, in the mean time, have full coverage for everything else.) But, thanks to this mandate, the customer can not buy coverage for any healthcare, because of a single ailment, unless they pay the sky-high premiums. $141 million of other people’s money is being sent to NJ to fix a problem caused by government. (For more on this, see Armstrong, Restore free market to address preexisting conditions.)

Why shouldn’t insurers be required to cover “pre-existing health problems like cancer or diabetes”? A health insurance policy is a voluntary, mutually advantageous contractual agreement, just like any other type of economic agreement like buying life insurance, a car, or a pack of gum. You are buying something – in this case, protection against potential medical costs. If one doesn’t have insurance coverage in place against cancer or diabetes, he must pay out of pocket. To legally force an insurance company to pay for treatment for someone who purchases insurance after the fact is legal plunder, plain and simple. The fact is, some people are just plain irresponsible, choosing to go without insurance protection. For these, it’s just another bailout.

But, as we shall see, there’s more to this issue – innocent victims of government interference into the health insurance market.

As mentioned above, many can’t afford the stratospheric premiums brought about by Trenton’s meddling, mandate crazed, special interest-driven politicians. Thanks to government, the cost of health insurance is prohibitive even for healthy people. Still others are innocent victims of the federally imposed third-party-payer system, under which the loss of a job means loss of health insurance because, unlike all other forms of insurance like auto, home, or umbrella liability policies, the employer owns the policy. When people own there own policies, there is no “pre-existing conditions” crisis. No one would expect to supply you with a new car, if you didn’t carry collision insurance.

So, ObamaCare tax loot comes to the rescue. We must subsidize these policies, or else 21,000 people will go to emergency rooms and ultimately stick tax payers with the bill – a perverse situation which government itself created through the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA).

Everywhere one looks, one sees government-caused problems. The solution – according to politicians posing as champions of their own victims - more government intervention. All of the horrifying implications of totalitarian ObamaCare are brushed off by the Editors as a “flood of disinformation”. But they’re real. Sarah Palin, whom I am no fan of and would never vote for, was right about death panels. When government “delivers health coverage”, it will deny access to treatment for anyone who doesn’t fit some bureaucrat’s statistical model of “comparative effectiveness”. But Palin was anticipated decades ago. The original government death panel, the FDA, routinely blocks doctors from prescribing, and the sick from voluntarily receiving, promising new experimental medicines. Hundreds of thousands of the sick suffer and die needlessly as they wait for FDA approvals.

And then the Star-Ledger has the nerve to rail against the lawsuits to overturn ObamaCare, because “the status quo is both wasteful and inhumane” – a status quo of our wasteful and inhumane government’s own making:

Gov. Chris Christie needs to give up the crazy idea that New Jersey might join the lawsuit seeking to block President Obama’s health care reform.

But if he joins the lawsuits, we are eager to hear his alternative solutions. How would he deliver health coverage to the bulk of the 1.3 million New Jerseyans without it? And how would he contain costs?

So far, 21 states have joined lawsuits against the Obama reform. If Christie joins them, he better have a Plan B. Because the status quo is both wasteful and inhumane.

There is nothing inconsistent about Governor Christie accepting the federal ObamaCare money while also joining in on the multi-state lawsuit to stop it (if he so chooses and which he should do). New Jersey taxpayers are being forced to pay for ObamaCare, and so Governor Christie has an obligation to retrieve whatever of those tax dollars he can for the state.

But the bigger picture – in fact, the elephant in the room that ObamaCare champions refuse to see – is that all of the problems burdening our American healthcare can be traced to governmental causes. Skyrocketing costs are the typical result of socialistic central planning and governments that undertake to guarantee economic benefits. The natural incentives of the free market – which means, freedom from force or compulsion from government – enables material benefits to become available and affordable to all income levels, over time. Under the increasing government interventions such as we've seen in healthcare over the decades, costs skyrocket over time. History and practice bare this out in spades.

But, there is no free market in healthcare in America today, where insurance companies are regulated, competition is stifled, and government accounts for half of all healthcare spending. ObamaCare is the politicians attempt to cash in on the problems they themselves caused, by seizing more control over and squeezing more of our freedom out of the healthcare industry. These are the indisputable facts of the "wasteful and inhumane" status quo that the Star-Ledger editors and their ilk are attempting to whitewash away. The right solution is to recognize that our current problems represent a failure of statism in medicine. Then we should move in the opposite direction. ObamaCare should be overturned as a first step. The phaseout and eventual repeal of the government regulations like the FDA and state-imposed insurance mandates, and social programs like Medicare and SCHIP, should follow. Our right to our private healthcare decision-making freedom should be restored across the board.

Plan B? The Editors understand fully how the separation of church and state protects religious freedom, as it has made clear in previous editorials. We need the same freedom in healthcare. For that, we need the same kind of protective political doctrine. We need to get rid of ObamaCare, and get government out of healthcare. We need the separation of healthcare and state. That's the Plan B that the medical statists evade.

(As an aside, I would be leery of “The latest polls [that] show that Americans are warming up to this reform, with 50 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.” Rasmussen Reports tells quite a different story. It continues to show strong majority support for repeal of ObamaCare. Of course, polls are not an argument.)

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