Expanded Government — and No More Tonsil Theft?

In his televised press conference on Wednesday evening, President Obama said three separate times that he was being “honest” with the American people.

So we know he was telling the truth.

Therefore, we know that we can take the president at his word when he said:

If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability … will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick … will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket … will cover preventative care.

And — the truly amazing part — all while we “will keep government out of health care decisions.”

Even the president’s most steadfast critics must admit that’s a lot to accomplish by law without getting the government involved.

What if we don’t enact the president’s proposals? Well, in that event:

we will not be able to control our deficit … [and] your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.

Quite frankly, that option doesn’t sound nearly as good. In the end, a more than $1 trillion expansion of government-run health care that “lowers cost and promotes choice” is not something you see everyday. We would be foolish to turn our back on such a historical novelty.

When the teleprompter was turned off and the president began to field questions, he spoke even more forthrightly. He spoke directly about the pressing health care concerns of people across the country, like their worry that when they take their kid into the doctor’s office for allergies, the doctor will seize the chance to make higher profits by taking the kid’s tonsils.

Here’s the president, in his own words:

Right now, doctors, a lot of times, are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that’s out there. So if they’re looking and — and you come in and you’ve got a bad sore throat, or your child has a bad sore throat, or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, “You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid’s tonsils out.”

Now, that may be the right thing to do. But I’d rather have that doctor making those decisions just based on whether you really need your kid’s tonsils out or whether it might make more sense just to change — maybe they have allergies. Maybe they have something else that would make a difference.

Critics might reply that the most senseless, poorly coordinated fee-schedules for doctors — the ones that promote the most waste, abuse, and outright fraud — are those used by the federal government. Medicare and Medicaid are notorious for poorly coordinated care and for encouraging fraud and abuse. But the president’s plan deals with these shortcomings of Medicare and Medicaid — by expanding Medicaid and launching a brand-new Medicare-like “public option.”

Never before have we had a president who was so comfortable putting himself in doctors’ shoes and dispensing medical advice, and it’s about time we had someone in the White House who was qualified to offer such guidance. Here is what the president said last month when addressing a roomful of doctors at the American Medical Association:

A recent study, for example, found that only half of all cardiac guidelines are based on scientific evidence — half. That means doctors may be doing a bypass operation when placing a stent is equally effective; or placing a stent when adjusting a patient’s drug and medical management is equally effective — all of which drives up costs without improving a patient’s health.

So one thing we need to do is to figure out what works, and encourage rapid implementation of what works into your practices.

Remember, however, that this will only be done in such a way that “will keep government out of health care decisions.”

So, in all, the president’s plan is water-tight. It will heavily regulate private insurers without involving government. It will cost over a trillion dollars while cutting costs. It will help our economic recovery while raising taxes on small businesses and job-creators. It will promote choice while capping the percentage of care that consumers can choose to pay directly to their doctors rather than through a middleman (an insurer or the government). It will lower our deficits while the Congressional Budget Office says that it will increase them by hundreds of billions of dollars.

And if that weren’t enough, it will stop doctors from reaping windfall profits through unprincipled tonsil-theft.

Jeffrey H. Anderson is a senior fellow in health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute and was the senior speechwriter for Secretary Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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