2009-11-14 / Editorials & Letters

Jobs needed, not government run health care

Just hours after the nation’s reported unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent – the highest in 26 years – House Democrats narrowly approved House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s health care takeover bill. Once again Representative Zack Space sided with the San Francisco liberal, ignoring the cries in his Ohio district for real jobs. Ohio’s unemployment rate has been in double digits for several months. Actual unemployment is higher than the reported rates since some former workers that have given up looking for work aren’t included in the reported rate.

The Pelosi/Space health care takeover bill is a job killer just like the cap and tax bill they pushed through this summer. As someone who has created more than a dozen new jobs over the years, both bills – plus the continuing threat of card check to ease unionization – chill the entrepreneurial spirit that accounts for the vast majority of new jobs and economic growth. Employers and future employers are sitting on their hands rather than creating jobs because of their uncertainty about their future costs, particularly for energy, health care, taxes and labor in general. Meanwhile, the apparently clueless Democrats pile on new regulations and future taxes in the biggest expansion of government since the New Deal in the 1930’s.

In the meantime, Pelosi and Space continue to spin the fantasy that providing health insurance to some 40+ million more people via government specified insurance plans will actually save money. After the lobbyists get done with it, the government’s standard for the required “qualified plan” will probably include aroma therapy. In any event, it will be costly and become even more so when the costs for guaranteed issue and community rating are included.

The concept of insurance is spreading risk over a large pool. For example, most of us thankfully will never need our fire insurance, but it will replace our home or business if the unexpected happens. Health “insurance” will no longer follow that model. Guaranteed issue is like allowing you to buy a fire insurance policy while the fire department is on its way to your home. Community rating means very little cost adjustment for risk will be permitted. Cost differences based on age, medical history and lifestyle (whether you smoke, drink or both) are severely restricted. That means the young and those who take care of themselves will be heavily subsidizing the elderly, smokers etc. Once again those taking responsibility for themselves will be penalized.

This isn’t insurance and the Democrats know it. Health insurers are warning that the costs for the government mandated plans will increase significantly and no wonder. When that happens in a couple of years, Democrats will have a convenient scapegoat, even though they created the monster that’s really responsible. The “evil and greedy” insurance companies will quickly be replaced by government bureaucrats and the transformation to national health care will be complete.

Then the costs will explode. In an attempt to hide the real cost, the bill pays for about six years of benefits with 10 years of new revenues. Once the benefits start flowing, we’ll find the costs far exceed the estimates. That’s been the case for nearly every government entitlement program. The only exception so far is the relatively new Medicare prescription plan.

As surging medical costs threaten to overwhelm government resources, we’ll discover the true meaning of “free” government care. We’ll be free to wait for weeks and months to see specialists and for surgical procedures. That’s the pattern in Great Britain with its National Health Service. We’ll be free to wait in vain for new therapies, drugs and medical devices to improve and extend our lives. Efforts to control government expenditures for health care will make medical innovations a nearly profitless venture, destroying one of our highest paying and innovative industries. We’ll also be free to die if our age and/or condition fall outside treatment parameters set by government bureaucrats.

We don’t need a nearly 2,000 page bill and the tens of thousands of pages of regulations it will spawn to improve our health care. First, we must allow health insurers to compete across state lines with a wide variety of plans. For example, young people should have the option to buy a low cost plan that provides only catastrophic coverage to protect them if they have a serious accident or illness. There should be a wide range of deductibles and coverages. Second, we should sever the link between employment and your health insurance, so you don’t lose your insurance if you lose or change your job. We must also stop the discriminatory tax treatment for those who are self-employed.

Nearly everyone should pay some portion of the cost of their medical care. We must spend our health care dollars like everything else we spend, paying attention to costs and benefits. That means physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and other medical providers must post at least basic prices. What else do we buy without any idea how much it costs? We need serious tort reform to save the billions spent each year on defensive medicine. And yes, we must subsidize high risk pools for those unable to buy insurance due to existing medical conditions and provide financial assistance to those who can’t afford insurance.

Is it too much to ask Space to focus on solving real problems here in Ohio, rather than pushing government further into our lives by taking over health care and controlling how we use energy? Good jobs will allow most of us to solve a lot of our problems on our own. But we need less government to create the environment for those jobs. Unfortunately, that’s not what the party of more and more government wants. Hopefully, our senators will wake up and stop this monster before it is too late!

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