By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
President Obama is ratcheting up the healthcare debate, hoping to have it wrapped up sometime this summer. As with his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, the president and his Democrats seem to all-of-a-sudden be in a hurry, as though delay presages defeat.
They may be right. The more one looks at increasing the role of government in the healthcare industry, the less there is to like.
Part of the problem is that his plan, as yet, has no details, particularly in the all-important arena of how to pay for it all. As the Wall Street Journal reports Thursday, Obama's words at a Wisconsin town meeting "gave no new insight into how the administration would pay for an overhaul that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday could cost up to $1.2 trillion over 10 years."
Obama, the paper said, says he can get the money from come from reductions in Medicare overpayments and the elimination of fraud and abuse. But that is not nearly enough money, say many experts, leading to talk of all kinds of tax increases, reductions in deductions and perhaps even a European-style Value Added Tax or VAT to make up the difference.
Another problem is that, despite the failings of the existing system, the government-run examples look worse.
A May 28, 2009 article in Health Affairs, "The policy journal of the health sphere," by Sharon Long and Paul Masi of the liberal Urban Institute, finds that former GOP Gov. Mitt Romney's signature healthcare reform has led to a shortage of doctors, longer waiting times and rationing—exactly the kinds of things that critics of Obama's government, public option approach say will happen if the president gets his way.
"In Massachusetts, some 20% of surveyed adults seeking care were told doctors or clinics were not accepting new patients, or not accepting patients with their type of coverage. The rejection rates were concentrated among those enrolled in the 'public plan' option—no surprise, given that government coverage pays far lower rates to doctors, clinics and hospitals.," the Wall Street Journal said.
President Obama's fast-track approach to healthcare reform is an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. Efforts to alter the marketplace, as RomneyCare did, will inevitably lead to higher prices for essential care and longer waiting times as the system becomes flooded with people taking advantage of this new "free" government service. What the White House wants is to capitalize on the unhappiness that some Americans have with the current insurance-based system to sell them on the idea that a government-run system would be free of problems as well as free of charge. And they don't want anyone to have time to think about why that might not be true.
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