Arnold Ahlert / July 13, 2017

Better Health Care or Broken Promises?

Will the GOP give us another version of the most virulent, national debt-busting, socialist enterprise in our nation’s history?

“One party is supposed to be the party of big government, the other the party of small government. When the Big Government Party is in power, the government gets bigger, and, when the Small Government Party is in power, the government gets bigger.” —Mark Steyn, Jan. 21, 2016

“As Obamacare brought grief, Republicans fed on public hate for it for four election cycles. Today, they seem stuck with their original commitment to the health of the health insurance industry — as if maintaining the companies as public utilities and passing taxpayer money through them to lower patient out-of-pocket costs were a step toward freedom rather than another step toward socialism.” —Angelo Codevilla, July 10, 2017

Sadly, the American electorate remains burdened by an out-of-touch political class whose most pressing priority is to convince us there are large differences between Democrats and Republicans, and that a vote for one side or the other will produce substantive change.

Democrats gave us ObamaCare. It was sold on a litany of lies by Barack Obama and his cadres, who assured us we could keep our doctors and our existing health care plans, and save $2,500 per year on premiums. Those lies were buttressed by contempt, eloquently espoused by ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber, who boasted about the “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” that enabled the bill’s passage.

Nancy Pelosi got the lion’s share of the blame for that contempt when, on March 9, 2010, she spoke about having to “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

In reality, Pelosi’s contempt was dwarfed by that of Democrat Rep. John Conyers. “I love these members that get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” he mocked at a National Press Club luncheon on July 29, 2009, regarding the initial efforts to get ObamaCare through the House. “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

What good are elected representatives who disdain the fundamental responsibilities of representative government?

Americans were furious. In 2010, they handed the House to the GOP. In 2014, they added the Senate. If the first victory was a response to Democrats’ ham-fisted passage of the law, the second was largely fueled by its consequences — soaring insurance premiums, narrowing provider networks, and the ongoing implosion of ObamaCare exchanges. All of that was precipitated by a “health insurance industry” whose initial dreams of untold profits they thought the mandatory insurance requirement would engender instead crashed and burned when millions of sick Americans signed up for policies — and millions of healthy Americans needed to subsidize them, didn’t.

Largely obscured was the ignorance and arrogance evinced by Democrats, who thought healthy Americans would be “stupid” enough to buy sky-high premiums, even when a relatively paltry fine for failing to do so — only collectible if one were getting a refund from the IRS — was a blatantly viable alternative.

Yet seven years after this debacle was enacted, what has changed, other than the party in charge? As Codevilla states, Republicans prop up ObamaCare rather than tear it down because “they are even more beholden to the insurance companies and hospital chains than the Democrats who passed it in the first place.”

Moreover, the cynicism and irresponsibility demonstrated by Pelosi and Conyers is not exclusive to Democrats.

As Conservative Treehouse columnist Sundance insists, politicians from both parties are little more than salespeople who hawk legislation created by what he calls the “Big Club,” an entity comprised of “massive and complex networks of lobbying groups who actually write legislation.” In the case of health care, the players include Big Labor, Big Wall Street and Big Pharma, all of whom “stood to gain substantially if they could shift the cost of healthcare from their individual ledgers into the personal checkbooks of the U.S. consumer.”

Thus, all of them have a vested interest in maintaining ObamaCare’s odious status quo.

Unfortunately for Republicans, Donald Trump’s election changed everything. Like the rest of the ruling class and the mainstream media, they believed a Hillary Clinton presidency was a “sure thing” — one that would allow the GOP to once again assume its traditional long-faced, “we tried our best but can’t overcome a presidential veto” posture that served its interests for four election cycles.

Instead, the duplicitous nature of a party that voted to repeal or amend ObamaCare more than 50 times since its passage — knowing it could never happen — has been exposed.

“Both sides of the aisle in Congress have bought into three healthcare lies: big, bigger, and biggest,” writes Dr. Deane Waldman in a column for The Hill. “The big lie says health insurance is what we need. The bigger lie presumes that insurance leads to care. The biggest lie is that government-provided health insurance can provide timely medical care for all Americans.”

That the cost of health insurance remains the centerpiece of any bill is astounding, given the reality that price transparency isn’t an integral part of the discussion. How does one determine premium costs without first establishing the prices of what’s covered? Nothing is more frustrating than asking a medical provider how much something costs, only to get a question in return: What insurance do you have? Such nonsense is only possible in a system where all prices are “negotiable,” and where ObamaCare’s cap on insurance company profits incentivizes them to raise outlays in order to raise profits.

“To create an affordable system, Congress need only require that health care providers offer ‘legitimate pricing’: They can continue to set their own rates, but they cannot charge a different rate for each patient,” explains former hospital president Steven Weissman, who further notes “high-quality providers offering good value would thrive” in such a system, while “networks would be obsolete, along with the administrative burdens, tremendous costs and limitations on patient choice they impose.”

What do we have instead? “Forty percent of U.S. healthcare spending — more than $1 trillion per year — produces no care,” Dr. Waldmen explains. Moreover, he adds, “government has only one method to control costs: medical rationing. It cuts reimbursement schedules to providers, limits payments to institutions, and denies authorization for expensive treatments.”

Thus, a government-centric system amounts to nothing more than Titanic deck chair re-arranging.

Yet the biggest problem of all … may be Americans themselves. As PBS’s Daniel Bush explains, “Once Americans start receiving a new social service, it’s hard for lawmakers to take it away.”

No doubt. But there’s a word for doing something unpopular that ultimately serves the nation’s interests: statesmanship.

On the plus side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has postponed part of the Senate’s August recess to work on the bill — in fact, version 2.0 may be released as early as today. On the minus side, Sen. Rand Paul insists the first version is nothing more than ObamaCare Lite, “keeping the Obamacare subsidies, keeping some of the Obamacare taxes, creating a giant insurance bailout superfund, and keeping most of the Obamacare regulations.”

Is Paul right? Will the so-called Small Government Party give us another version of the most virulent, national debt-busting, socialist enterprise in our nation’s history?

Here’s hoping Republicans ultimately discover the difference between statesmanship and salesmanship.

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