This article was published in the NY Post a couple of weeks ago. It only scraches the surface of why government healthcare is a disasterous idea, but for those people who don't know a great deal about it, it serves as a cogent, informative argument.
PRESIDENT Obama's new budget dedicates $634 bil lion> over the next 10 years to what he calls health reform. He> promises - or perhaps threatens - that this vast sum will be> a down payment for universal coverage, which could require> more than $1 trillion. > Unfortunately, the president intends to spend all this> money on the basis of several pernicious myths common in the> health-care debate. As a result, his reforms would> ultimately hand the health-care system over to the> government and lead to rationing. > The president's budget repeats the popular claim that> 45.7 million Americans are uninsured. The figure is taken as> proof positive that the current system is failing - and that> the government must step in to provide a remedy. > But that misleading number includes millions we can hardly> call uninsured. About 18 million of the uninsured make more> $50,000 a year - and almost 10 million have yearly incomes> over $75,000. More than 10 million aren't US citizens.> And as many as 14 million are already eligible for> government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP - but> haven't signed up. > For most folks, health insurance is simply too expensive.> And ramping up funding for government health programs, as> Obama proposes, won't make insurance cheaper. In fact,> it could cause private insurance to become more expensive. > After all, the feds reimburse hospitals and doctors at> below-market rates for Medicare and Medicaid patients. So> those of us with private health plans have to pay more to> fill the gap - and that hidden tax is about 10 percent. In> California, for example, private payers paid an extra $45> billion to compensate for unpaid Medicare costs in 2004. > Obama's budget also takes aim at prescription-drug> costs by forcing manufacturers to give Medicaid a bigger> discount, probably 20 percent, on brand-name drug purchases> (it already gets a 15 percent break). That might help curb> Medi caid's expenses, but it will raise drug prices for> everyone else, who will have to make up the difference. > Taken as a whole, Obama's health plan is predicated> upon the misguided notion that government can deliver care> more efficiently than the private sector. There's ample> evidence to the contrary> CONTINUED> Just look at the failure of existing government health> programs - both here and abroad. Many Medicaid patients have> a difficult time finding a doctor. According to a 2003 study> by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, doctors are> five times more likely to turn away Medicaid patients than> those with private insurance. > The situation is even worse in countries like Canada and> Great Britain - whose government-run systems Obama's> health braintrust has cited approvingly. > More than 725,000 Canadians languish on months-long waiting> lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Doctors> are in short supply - thanks largely to the government> takeover of the health sector. In the early 1970s, when> Canada launched its "universal coverage" system,> the country ranked second among 28 developed countries in> doctors per thousand people. Today, it's 24th. > Further, Canadians often lack access to the advanced> medical technology that Americans take for granted. Canada> ranks 19th among 26 reporting OECD nations in access to CT> scanners and 14th out of 25 reporting OECD countries in> access to MRI machines. > In the UK, the government-run health system explicitly> rations medical treatments through the publicly chartered> National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. NICE> evaluates data from clinical drug trials to decide if newer> medical treatments are more effective than older, cheaper> alternatives. It then makes recommendations to Britain's> state-run National Health Service about which treatments are> worth paying for. > Last summer, British patients with kidney cancer were> denied access to four lifesaving drugs. NICE's clinical> and public health director said of the drugs at the time,> "Although these treatments are clinically effective,> regrettably the cost to the NHS is such that they are not a> cost-effective use of NHS resources." > In other words, the British government admitted that> patients would likely die without these treatments - but> refused to pay for them anyway. > This could happen here. Obama's stimulus package> includes $1.1 billion for NICE-style> comparative-effectiveness studies. > As the costs for his health reforms mount, Obama will be> forced to employ the same strategies that Canada and Britain> have to cut spending. That means the rationing of care (and> significantly higher taxes). > Obama's budget represents a major effort to transform> the US health-care system. Patients should ask themselves> whether they're ready for his medicine. > Sally Pipes is president & CEO of the Pacific Research> Institute. Her latest book is "The Top Ten Myths of> American Health Care."