Anne Lowe and Rick Akin: Health care a nightmare
March 28, 2010
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
— Benjamin Franklin
That principle is as true today as it was in Dr. Franklin's time. Nevertheless, those in control in Washington persist in further controlling the lives of Americans, increasing the size and power of government while further controlling and encroaching on the freedom of Americans — all under the pretense of taking care of us, and providing us with security.
The most blatant example of government takeover in our history is the health care bill signed into law this week, despite opposition from a sizeable majority of the American people. In summary, this bill imposes substantial controls on doctors, patients, insurance carriers and medical facilities, while massively increasing taxes, government spending and, yes, the federal budget deficit. It's negative impact on businesses across the country and even our hometown of Steamboat is starting to unfold. You already have seen the reports of businesses having to bear massive new expenses resulting from this bill.
The new law:
■ Forces all Americans (and employers with 50 employees or more) to purchase health insurance approved by federal bureaucrats or pay a fine.
■ Eliminates the option of catastrophic health coverage as is provided by popular HSA plans.
■ Drastically increases the Medicaid entitlement.
■ Imposes more than a dozen new taxes, including a 0.9 percentage point increase in employment taxes.
■ Drastically cuts Medicare expenditures.
■ Creates 159 new federal boards, bureaus and commissions.
■ Mandates pre-existing condition coverage (you now can buy insurance while in the ambulance).
■ The reconciliation bill passed by the House adds the following:
■ Nationalizes the college student loan program (Obviously central to any health care reform).
■ Extends the increased Medicare tax to all income, including investment income.
■ Provides for hiring 16,000 additional IRS agents (and you know they'll be compelled to earn their keep).
Let's face it, this was never about improving health care. If so, we would have been its biggest fans. Save all your health care sob stories because we know this was always about political power. We could solve so many of the problems in our health care system if we confronted each issue individually and incrementally. Those in power dismissed this approach because it never could achieve the major objective of government control. How many times have we heard "transformational"? Congress rammed through a deeply flawed and fiscally irresponsible overhaul of health care in order to achieve political control. It was a dark day for American liberty.
Brace yourself for the consequences: less freedom for doctors/patients; higher health care/insurance costs; increase in taxes; decline in health care service; increasing federal deficits; and downward pressure on our struggling economy.
This debacle has been largely justified by demonizing insurers and drug companies, whose total profits, by the way, would only finance the country's health care system for about a week a year. It is beyond debate that the United States provides the vast majority of heath care innovation. Innovation, however, does not come from a government commission. It comes from private industry. Consequently, the current administration's path of health care reform will stifle innovation at the same time that it fails to meet its other objectives. It is simply wrong-headed.
As Nobel laureate Milton Friedman observed, "The lesson of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system." The health care industry is no exception, and no bureaucrat has the ability to improve service and pricing like that of a competitor.
As George Washington observed, "Government is not reason, nor eloquence. It is force. And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master."
What's next fellow Americans? Will we stand by and allow this arrogant administration to ram through further regulations? Believe me, they're confident now that they can pass anything they want through any process they can come up with — constitutional or not. Will we go from the "land of the free, home of the brave" to "land of the suppressed, home of the dependent?"
Rick Akin is an Attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs, Denver and Austin, Texas; a former community representative on the Pilot & Today Editorial Board; and vice chairman of The Steamboat Institute. He holds a BA from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate from the University of Texas.
Anne Lowe is a practicing pharmacist and a graduate of the University of Utah, with a doctorate from the University of Colorado. She is a director of The Steamboat Institute.