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Commentary

Lying About Health Reform


     
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You can always tell that a person is losing an argument when he throws reason, logic and factual evidence aside and starts personally attacking his opponent. That’s the modus operandi of Paul Krugman, liberal columnist for The New York Times.

Opponents of ObamaCare are telling “lies,” wrote Krugman the other day. In fact he used the word “lie” three times to characterize the critics in the space of a single column. Those who disagree with him “make stuff up” and concoct “completely fraudulent” statements, he adds.

While he’s ranting and raving about people he calls “the enemy,” Krugman tells a few whoppers of his own, however. This is his defense of ObamaCare:

The fact is that individual health insurance, as currently constituted, just doesn’t work. If insurers are left free to deny coverage at will—as they are in, say, California—they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care.

Now anyone who knows anything about the health insurance business knows that it is illegal under federal law for an insurance company “to yank” (cancel) someone’s insurance because he or she gets sick. That’s not only illegal; it’s been illegal for the past 16 years!

What about insurance companies refusing to sell insurance to people because they need expensive care? It happens. But this is a problem that is turning out to be relatively minor and not very expensive to fix. If Krugman is going to write about health care, he should have known that fact as well.

One of the most interesting parts of ObamaCare is the new federal risk pools that offer coverage to the very people Krugman is talking about. Anyone denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition can buy insurance in Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) risk pools for the same premium that would be paid by healthy people.

So how many people have signed up? Only 49,000. Think about that. We are in the process of nationalizing the entire health care system. The federal government is going to tell 300 million Americans what kind of health insurance they must have. We are going to create 159 new regulatory agencies and spend close to $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years getting it done. Yet the primary reason for doing all of this—according to Krugman—is to solve the problem of 49,000 people!

As for criticizing ObamaCare, the critics have no reason to lie. The reality is ugly enough. There are three big problems in health care: cost, quality and access. Health care is too expensive. The quality of care many patients receive is less than optimal. And too many Americans have difficulty getting care. So for its $1.8 trillion price tag, what will ObamaCare do about these three problems? It will most likely make all three of them worse.

  • Almost every serious analysis predicts that spending will be higher, not lower, under ObamaCare.

  • The results of pilot programs and demonstration projects leave us no reason to believe that the quality of care will improve ; and perverse incentives are likely to make the quality of care patients receive worse, not better.

  • Access to care for our most vulnerable populations is likely to go down, not up—despite the fact that more people will have health insurance.

On this last point, ObamaCare makes the same mistake nationally as health reform in Massachusetts, which President Obama cites as the model for his reform. In both cases, more people get insurance, but there are no more doctors to deliver any additional care.

In Massachusetts, more people are going to hospital emergency rooms than ever before—presumably because they can’t find a doctor who will see them. The wait to see a new doctor in Boston is about two months—longer than in any other U.S. city. In a sense, people in Boston have less access to care than people living anywhere else!

ObamaCare will greatly expand the demand for health care while doing nothing to increase its supply. That implies a huge rationing problem, and anyone who is in a health plan that pays doctors and hospitals less than what others are paying will be pushed to the rear of the waiting lines. Who are those people? They are the elderly and the disabled on Medicare, poor people on Medicaid, and (if Massachusetts is the model) low income families getting subsidized insurance in the newly created health insurance exchanges.

ObamaCare will impose its harshest impact on the most vulnerable populations.


John C. Goodman is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the award-winning and widely acclaimed Institute book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other media, have called him the “Father of Health Savings Accounts.”


  New from John C. Goodman!
PRICELESS: Curing the Healthcare Crisis
To cure the ailments of American healthcare we must get rid of the perverse incentives that raise costs, reduce quality, and make care hard to access. We must allow a free-market price system to emerge, so that the laws of supply and demand will work to the benefit of patients and providers alike.






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