Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Empty promises on health care

Byron York:
Barack Obama is only halfway through his term, but it's not too early to ask: What is the biggest whopper he has told as president? So far, the hands-down winner is, "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your healthcare plan, you'll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
Opponents of Obamacare at the time were called obstructionists, liars, racists, and worse. We now know that they were right:
For example, we know that the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has found that the new law will increase healthcare costs, rather than reduce them, in the coming decade. We know that cuts in Medicare, with the money saved going to pay for expanding coverage to the poor, will jeopardize seniors' access to care. We know the law will make it impossibly expensive for companies that currently offer bare-bones health coverage to low-income employees to keep doing so. We know several corporations are taking giant write-downs because the bill will increase the cost of providing prescription-drug coverage to retired employees. And perhaps most important, we know the law offers an enormous incentive for employers who currently provide coverage to workers to stop doing so, sending those workers to buy coverage in government-subsidized healthcare exchanges.

In sum, what the law means for millions of Americans is: No matter what the president said, if you like the coverage you have now, you can't keep it.
The evidence mounts daily that Obamacare is exactly the catastrophe that critics warned it would be. We were told it would cover everyone. It doesn't. We were told it would create more competition. It has decreased competition. We were told quality would improve. It hasn't. We were told it would be more affordable. It's more expensive. We were told we could keep our doctors and our coverage. We can't.
The key question of healthcare reform has always been how to make things better for the 16 percent [with poor insurance] while not messing things up for the 82 percent [that liked what they had]. Obama decided to blow up the system for everyone.
. . .
Is any of this a surprise? The fact is, the president knew or should have known that his healthcare scheme would have these effects. He paid a political price for his actions on Nov. 2. There might be more to pay on Nov. 6, 2012.
Either Obama lied or he had no idea what he was doing. In either case, he made a mess of things that, despite what Republicans promise, will never be totally undone. I think it was John Stewart Mill who said it's the job of liberals to break things and the job of conservatives to make sure they don't get fixed.* That's the formula: three steps toward the cliff; two steps back. I fear we're stuck with Obamacare for good.

* Update: The quote I was grasping for was from G. K. Chesterton: "The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."

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