The Selling of Health Care
Breaking the BIG Rule
On Aug. 13, Daniel Henninger wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
... health care arrived in late May as a trillion-pound federal elephant in an Obama house that was looking like a Noah's ark of every known species of federal spending: the $800 billion public-works stimulus, the deficit-busting $3.5 trillion budget (and now Treasury's Tim Geithner wants Congress to lift the debt limit above $12.1 trillion), the grandiose cap-and-trade bill that foundered when Democratic coal states rebelled, the U.S. engulfment of the auto industry, the tax time bombs.
In his zeal to reverse Clinton secrecy and make the health care debate transparent, President Obama announced the rollout of a massive national campaign to reform health care—insisting it be passed by summer, or else it would never be passed.
The capstone of the marketing effort was to take place during the summer congressional vacation. Senators, representatives, cabinet members, advisors and the president himself planned to woo the electorate by fanning out across the country in a series of town hall meetings where they would explain health care reform and answer questions.
Alas the White House discovered it has a legion of enemies:
- An entire country outraged at being ripped off by the Wall Street greed that resulted in the subprime mess, foreclosures, millions of lost jobs and the trillion-dollar bailout, while thousands of bailout recipients are receiving million-dollar bonuses paid for by taxpayers.
- Insurance companies are making a fortune by only insuring healthy people and refusing to insure anybody with a "pre-existing condition." Last week I ran into a guy in his 70s who can't get Medicare Part B or long-term care insurance because he once had a liver scan. The results were negative, but the fact that he had the test at all makes him ineligible for coverage. President Obama has said pre-existing conditions will no longer be an excuse for noncoverage, which will eat deeply into the profits of private insurers.
- "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program," Barack Obama said back in 2003. His insistence on a "public option"—government-backed insurance like Medicare—threatens to deeply wound the 1,300 insurance companies that write private health care policies.
- Medicare is grotesquely shortchanging physicians and hospitals. On Aug. 6 in Houston, 90 physicians showed up at a town meeting with Republican Rep. Kevin Brady to vehemently protest the coming of socialized medicine.
- Trial lawyers don't want health care reform because limits on multimillion-dollar malpractice awards for "pain and suffering" will wreck their practices. These judgments drive up malpractice premiums for doctors in some professions to $200,000-plus a year. The result: $210 billion annually in superfluous tests that are (1) designed protect the doctors from lawsuits and (2) provide income to doctors to help them pay the outlandish malpractice premiums.
- The pharmaceutical industry is angry and scared that the government will legislate lower drug prices. I'm for that. My daily intake of a Nexium and Uroxatal pills cost me $1 each; $2 a day; $730 a year. And my Part D Medicare payments don't cover this.
- Medicare and Medicaid are allegedly riddled with inefficiencies and fraud. Huge cuts are threatened. A number of doctors are refusing Medicare patients. Seniors (myself included) are worried, especially since many doctors are opting out of Medicare.
- Small businesses that are hanging on by their fingernails will be forced to spend more on health insurance for employees.
- Business owners and consumers alike are watching their health insurance premiums double every 10 years.
- High earners—already heavily taxed—are threatened with new taxes to pay for health reform.
- Republicans have their knickers in a twist over the shellacking they took in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and want retribution.
The result: Many of these angry, scared people are showing up at town hall meetings—and sending surrogates (some of them armed)—to raise hell, shout down speakers they disagree with, make threats and derail the entire scheme, ultimately turning Norman Rockwell's iconic "Freedom of Speech" painting into a mockery.