“How can health care for everyone be a bad thing?”
Several months ago, one of my friends uttered this quote in an attempt to combat the negative press surrounding President Obama’s health care bill as it was being considered by Congress. The answer to that question, of course, is that health care for everyone is not a bad thing, it is a great thing. Sadly my friend missed the point, and so did many Americans: How do you pay for it when we’re $13 trillion in debt? Health Care Reform gripped the nation as yet another non-partisan issue was politicized for the sole purpose of damaging political opponents. In the end there was no winner; only losers: The American People.
Every issue has an upside and a downside. In 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act required hospital emergency rooms to treat anyone in need of care, regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. The upside was that patients were not turned away from needed health care. The downside is that “about half of all emergency services go uncompensated.” The best intentions of government resulted in a huge unfunded mandate to emergency departments nationwide and a loss of $4.2 billion in revenue in 2001 according to the American Medical Association. Nobody wants to see patients denied much-needed care, but how can the government pass laws that help some people and completely destroy others?
Health care reform divided the nation along lines defined by views of big government versus small, and compassion versus fiscal responsibility. At a time when the economy was the top concern for Americans, not health care, Congress unveiled a $940 billion bill which was passed into law on March 23, 2010. Republicans were once again labeled “obstructionists,” even though they didn’t have enough votes to stop the Democrats from passing the bill. Democrats called Republicans the usual names, accusing them of being racists, hating the poor and defending the rich.
Today, 60% of Americans favor repeal.
It seems as if every issue where Democrats and Republicans disagree ends with more Americans believing that the GOP is racist, anti-poor and pro-rich. Why are Democrats so good at convincing Americans of these stereotypes? I believe it is because Democrats tend to politicize with emotional buzzwords and headlines, while Republicans do it with logic. So, are Republicans heartless to oppose a bill that would extend health care benefits to 32 million Americans? Well, let’s consider some of the objections.
The government is notoriously inefficient. In a previous post I went over the resume of the U.S. Government in detail, including the tremendous successes (read: failures) of Amtrak, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the U.S. Postal Service, the Ryan White CARE Act, and Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Even recipients of government funding like Planned Parenthood operate without oversight, as they apparently can’t account for $1.8 billion in taxpayer dollars received over the last decade. This isn’t a partisan problem. The government is inefficient under EVERY administration, which is why a majority of Americans prefer a smaller government. As it is, the bill is already estimated to cost $115 billion more than anticipated, and it hasn’t yet gone into effect.
It is simply a bad law. The health care law is designed to increase access to health care and lower costs so more Americans can afford to purchase health insurance. Correct? Does taxing the manufacturers of medical devices and brand-name prescription drugs help lower the cost of health care? Those increased costs will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumer, who is now forced to carry health insurance because of the mandates in the health care law – no matter what the cost! In fact, nothing in the new law controls the rising costs of health care. It does, however, force businesses to file a 1099 form for every vendor transaction of $600 or more, which creates a pile of paperwork for even the smallest businesses. What purpose does this serve in a health care bill? None! It has nothing to do with health care.
Going forward, individuals will no longer be able to claim medical expenses on their taxes that exceed 7.5% of their income. The new number is 10%, resulting in roughly $800 less in deductions for someone earning $25,000/year. President Obama said those earning under $250k/year wouldn’t see their taxes increase by a “single dime,” but if you can’t claim an additional $800 in medical expenses on your tax return, I think you’re out more than a dime. Medicare payroll taxes are also going up 2.35% for those earning more than $200k, and revenue from the increase in Medicare taxes will not be going to help save or fix Medicare. Medicare, in fact, is being cut by $500,000,000,000.00!
Then there are the mandates. Individuals will now be required to carry health insurance, whether they can afford it or not. Your coverage must also meet minimum government standards to “qualify” as an acceptable health care plan. The penalty for not complying will be as much as $750 per year for an individual, $2,250 for a family, or 2% of your income – whichever is higher. The employer mandates could cause some series damage. Employers who cannot afford to offer health insurance to their employees will pay fines, which could amount to $3,000 per employee, per year. This will unquestionably cause jobs to be cut and businesses to close. That’s a fact that cannot be ignored.
Of course we can’t forget luxury health care plans, called “Cadillac Plans.” These are plans that cost more than $8,500 per year for an individual. They’re great plans, but there will now be a 40% excise tax on them. Yes, that’s right – 40%. It is designed to go after the rich, but it is not indexed for inflation, which means in 10 years when all plans cost $8,500/year or more, everyone will be paying the 40% tax. Many union-negotiated plans are considered “Cadillac Plans,” but if you’re in a union you don’t have to worry about it. President Obama exempted unions from this 40% tax. For the record, only 8% of Americans are in unions.
The new law also allows the Department of Health and Human Services to create “qualified non-profit health insurance issuers” to offer health insurance, with federal grants, and exempt from federal taxes. It requires health care coverage information to be reported to the IRS, and provides funding to hire 16,000 additional IRS agents to ensure compliance with the individual and employer mandates.
What’s not in the bill? Tort reform for starters. We live in a lawsuit-happy society, and doctors must carry expensive insurance policies to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits and mega-million dollar settlements. Those costs get passed on to patients, contributing to the high costs of health care. Republicans wanted tort reform included. Democrats argued it would not result in a significant savings, however it should be noted that trial lawyers donate almost exclusively to the Democratic Party. Another provision not included in the bill was the ability to purchase health care plans across state lines. This would increase competition and help lower costs, as we’ve seen happen in the auto insurance industry. Again, Democrats refused to include it after it was proposed by Republicans.
The House of Representatives requires 218 votes to pass a bill into law, and when the health care law was passed 253 were Democrats. The Senate requires 51 votes to pass a bill into law, and when the health care law was passed 57 were Democrats. Once again, I need someone to tell me how Republicans were being “obstructionists.” In reality, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi didn’t get to pass the law they wanted because conservative Democrats were pressured to oppose the bill. That’s why the far-left liberals today feel as though the law doesn’t go far enough. Republicans, who opposed the bill almost unanimously through the entire process, didn’t even have to show up for the final votes.
In the end, not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted to pass what is now referred to as ObamaCare. After the Senate passed the health care law, the San Francisco Chronicle stated, “The passage of Health Care Reform means the death of the Republican Party. Can you imagine any Republican effectively explaining to an electorate why they voted against help for the uninsured?” Help for the uninsured, at the expense of the remaining 90% of Americans? This issue is not as black and white as the Chronicle would have us believe.
Nine months later, a clear majority of Americans favor repeal and Democrats face the possibility of losing the House of Representatives. When you politicize a non-political issue like health care, emotions get in the way and eventually you have to start looking at the facts. Almost everyone agrees that our health care system is in need of reform, but if Congress is going to spend years and trillions of taxpayer dollars reforming it, shouldn’t we do it right? “It’s better than nothing,” is simply not good enough.
The simple truth is that President Obama and Democrats in Washington thought health care reform would be their golden moment, ensuring victories in 2010 and 2012. They completely underestimated the political cost of going against the majority of Americans, and I’m happy to see our nation waking up and paying attention to important issues again.
Someday we may even see Americans paying attention to the details of those issues. I welcome it.