Health Care Debate Has Been a Waste of Time

healthAmerica’s leaders have spent countless hours wrangling over “health care reform” and have finally reached a stand-off in which the only likely beneficiary is the insurance industry. If, as seems likely, the Senate bill is defeated (without even getting to a vote), the industry will be able to celebrate a continuation of the status quo, with all of the existing abuses, obscene executive compensation and fat profits for stock market investors.

If the bill becomes law, the Democrats will pat themselves on the back and claim a “historic” victory. And the health care industry will moan about being unfairly regulated. But the truth would be the opposite: the legislation would be nothing but a huge handout to the industry with “reforms” that amount to little more than window dressing.

Take the high-profile issue of “pre-existing conditions.” The new legislation would stop private insurers from rejecting new clients with existing illnesses – diabetics like me, for example. Insurers now routinely refuse new customers with physical imperfections, even a few pounds of excess weight. Under the proposed law, they cannot continue this practice, but there is nothing to stop them from charging these new customers much higher rates than normal, so as a practical matter, the “reform” is pointless.

If the so-called “public option” survives, it would be so weak that only a small number of Americans would be eligible for it. If you are insured by your employer, for example, you would not be allowed to switch to the government plan. The government would end up insuring the least desirable customers, leaving the private companies with the most profitable customer base.

The way I see it, the “reforms” would boil down to this: All Americans, rich and poor, would have to buy health insurance, as all motorists now have to buy automobile insurance. Failure to comply with the law would be a crime, and would result in fines (and if you don’t pay the fine, imprisonment). Imagine, in a nation wracked by unemployment, where so many families are losing their homes, where millions are going hungry, everyone would be forced to find the money to buy health insurance at whatever price the private companies choose to charge – or, for the few who are eligible, pay even higher premiums to join the government plan.

For Americans who can’t afford the premiums – or, rather, who the government considers too poor to afford the premiums – there would be subsidies. In other words, tax money would be used to subsidize a huge new customer base for private insurance companies. The “reform” plan would also cut back Medicare Advantage in order to help fund the new subsidies, on the grounds that too much tax money goes to insurance providers under the Medicare Advantage program.

Consider the irony of this approach: private insurers get too much tax money through Medicare Advantage so under the “reformed” plan, the government would take some of that money and give it to – wait for it – private insurers.

medicareI understand the bill also expands Medicaid, which is an excellent idea. But what is stopping lawmakers from expanding Medicaid without adding all those other provisions? Obviously, the right path to reform would be to expand Medicaid, so that none of the needy would be left behind, and expand Medicare to give all Americans under 65 the option of joining it.

Remember, Medicare is not free. Uncle Sam takes a chunk of my Social Security every month to pay for my benefits. So the younger folks joining Medicare would have to come up with premiums. Granted, some of them might not be able to find the money and the government would have to help them out. Still, that would be a lot cheaper than the convoluted “reform” plan now being considered.