Harry Reid is Wrong on History and Wrong on Health Reform

If he continues on his present course, he may have a mutiny on his hands.

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Those familiar with the Medicaid program, a joint federal-state program that serves low-income communities across the country, know the other ways that care can become restricted under government healthcare programs. In general, Medicaid is a second tier healthcare system, with fewer benefits and less flexibility. Many doctors and specialists just won't accept Medicaid, since payment rates are set below the cost of providing care. The Senate bill would expand Medicaid and many will be surprised to find themselves stuck in Medicaid's morass.

Proposed cuts to the Medicare Advantage program similarly will disproportionately affect minority communities. Currently, about one in five of all seniors—but one in four African-Americans and one in three Hispanics—participates in Medicare Advantage plans, which tend to cost less and provide superior benefits to traditional "fee-for-service" Medicare. Seniors who don't have the money to purchase supplemental private insurance will be particularly hard hit as they are pushed out of Medicare Advantage. Low-income seniors—again, who disproportionately come from minority communities—will also bear the brunt of the massive cuts to all Medicare services, since they don't have the money to buy care outside of the system.

We do need healthcare reform, particularly to help low-income and minority communities that today often don't have access to the quality care they need. But those reforms should focus on preserving what's best about our current system—its high quality and medical innovation—while fixing the system's flaws. There are many ways to improve the system without a massive expansion of government: allowing for the purchase of insurance across state lines and giving those who purchase insurance themselves the same tax advantages enjoyed by employers who provide insurance would both drive down prices and make insurance more affordable and accessible. Direct subsidies to help those who can't afford insurance themselves would be a better policy than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all, government-run program.

Americans want a better healthcare system—but they don't want government bureaucrats dictating care options and restricting the availability of certain treatments.

If comparisons to slavery are now fair game, Majority Leader Reid should consider this one. In 1839, slaves being transported on the ship La Amistad revolted and killed many of those holding them captive; when the matter was eventually taken up by the Supreme Court, the would-be slaves were found not guilty of wrongdoing and were freed. Today, Reid and members of Congress are steering America toward a land of government-run healthcare, in spite of the fact that polls consistently show that most Americans don't want to go in that direction. Just 27 percent of Americans polled have a favorable view of Congress, and just about 40 percent of Reid's constituents plan to vote for him again.

It's not a perfect analogy, but I hope it gets a point across: If Reid and his fellow congressman continue on their present course, they may be facing a mutiny of their own.

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