2008 record      


Health Care: IBD recently ran an extensive series of pieces by economist Thomas Sowell highlighting government's involvement in the financial meltdown. We did it both to correct the historical record and to warn about future interventions of the same kind.

The most important warning is over current plans by Democrats in Congress and the White House to "reform" the U.S. health care system in a way that will end up hamstringing private insurers, bankrupting doctors and adding trillions of dollars to U.S. debt — while not improving health care in America one jot.

As the sagacious Sowell has noted many times and in many places, government action such as taking over 17% of our $14 trillion economy may sound like a good idea — and may even have the best of intentions — but is in fact dangerous to our health. Literally.

And when, would we add, has government ever taken on a large domestic program that has worked well or stayed within its budget? Medicare, when considered in the mid-1960s, was projected to cost $10 billion by 1990. Actual outlays 25 years later came to $107 billion. And now Democrats want to expand it.

Entire books have been written debunking the idea of government-run health care. The idea of an overhaul is wildly unpopular among Americans, especially once they find out what's contained in the "reforms" Congress wants.

The latest polls show strong opposition to government-run health care. And it's growing. Just Thursday, a CNN survey showed 61% of Americans oppose the idea. Other major polls — Gallup, Rasmussen, you name it — show similar opposition.

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll, taken in early December, suggests it's affecting President Obama's ability to govern, with 47% giving him a poor grade on health care.

And yet, the clock is ticking. Democrats would dearly love to get a bill passed before the end of the year to show that theirs is not a do-nothing Congress. Last Wednesday's action by the Senate to move forward with Majority Leader Harry Reid's "compromise," as it's deceptively called, takes Congress a step closer to its goal.

But make no mistake: The health care bill making its way through the House and Senate, if passed, is a disaster in the making, one that will have enormous ramifications for our basic freedoms and standard of living. Among the reasons:

• They don't begin to cover everyone. The latest leaves 24 million of the 47 million uninsured uncovered by 2019, well after the program starts, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Still, trillions will be spent to take over 17% of our economy and pad the deficit by hundreds of billions a year. The CBO further estimates 10 million will lose their private insurance. By forcing millions of Americans into government run health plans, it will ultimately lead to a single-payer health care system.

• Medical costs will soar. Estimates range from $1 trillion to $6.25 trillion, thanks to mandates requiring you to buy insurance. Even a pared-down version would add $290 billion to the yearly deficit, CBO data show. The real budget-buster is letting 3 million Americans ages 55 to 64 buy in to Medicare, an expansion of nearly 30%. Medicare is already, by government and private estimates, as much as $100 trillion in the red in coming decades.

• Taxes will also go up. The proposed overhaul contains at last count 13 tax hikes. Democrats talk about "free" health care. In fact, as numbers from the Joint Tax Committee show, 17.8 million of us will pay lower taxes, while nearly four times as many — 68.4 million — will pay higher taxes.

"A family of four making $54,000 would pay more than $825 per month for one federally managed plan...even after a $10,100 government subsidy," wrote Daniel Foster on NationalReview.com.

• Bureaucracy will explode. At last tally, the overhaul would create 108 new bureaucracies, ranging from an Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee to our favorite, the Program of Administrative Simplification. Thousands of new government workers will be needed — but think Post Office, not Mayo Clinic.

• Health outcomes will worsen. The biggest lie about government care is that it will make us healthier. Yet, a 2008 study by the British medical journal Lancet shows government-run health care systems in Germany, France, Britain and Canada have higher rates of death from breast, prostate and colon cancer than the U.S. — due largely to substandard government care.

Americans have greater access to MRI, tomography and other sophisticated diagnostics — and more lifesaving drugs. The waiting list for surgery and other treatment runs to 800,000 people in Canada and 200,000 in Britain, notes health care analyst Sally Pipes. Thousands die each year from lack of care in Europe and Canada. The U.S. has virtually no waiting lists.

• Reform as envisioned is unconstitutional. Proponents love to cite the Constitution's Commerce Clause as justification for government control of nearly everything. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has never said that's the case — and isn't likely to.

Also, the U.S. government has never forced citizens to buy something — which is exactly what health reform would do. As the CBO noted: "A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action." It won't pass high-court scrutiny, nor should it.

The final argument, that the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution's Article 1, Section 8, permits programs such as this, is based on a misunderstanding. That clause deals with the government's right and obligation to take care of its own finances. It has nothing to do with "welfare" as commonly construed.

In short, the health care overhaul pushed by the Senate, House and White House are not only massively bureaucratic, fiscally irresponsible and possibly dangerous to your health — they also aren't legal.

We started with Thomas Sowell, so why not end with him? Last year, in the middle of the health care debate, he wrote:

"The point is that health care is largely in your hands. Medical care is in the hands of doctors. Things that depend on what doctors do — cancer survival rates, for example — are already better here than in countries with government-run medical systems. But, if political rhetoric prevails, we may yet sell our birthright and not even get the mess of pottage."

Truer words were never spoken.

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