Last night, President Obama gave a passionate 48-minute address to Congress and the nation laying out his views on health-care reform. It was his 29th speech on the topic. He made the case for a government takeover of health care — even while promising that nothing will change for the 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance and like it. He emphasized that the reforms he is suggesting will not increase the deficit.
President Obama’s outline is indeed attractive: care for all, lower costs for most, and no limits or exclusions from either health-insurance companies or government bureaucrats. His proposals may have impressed TV viewers and members of Congress, and it should be noted that his delivery was excellent. But when you consider the facts, Obama’s proposals seem much less impressive.
Many of his “factual” claims are highly dubious. Some of these dubious assertions — for example, that preventive care will save money, that our health-care system hurts our international competitiveness, and that the uninsured shift significant costs to the insured — have been debunked by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Others are simply absurd — for example, Obama’s insistence that government is more efficient at administration than the private sector. If that is the case, why does the president say that the savings to help cover the cost of his plan ($900 billion over ten years) would come from eliminating fraud and abuse in two government programs, Medicare and Medicaid? If government is so efficient, why are fraud and abuse still rampant in these programs?
Then there is the conflation of health insurance and health care. Obama ignores the fact that the United States has a law, EMTALA, that offers a real safety net and provides universal health care, as opposed to universal insurance, for everyone. The real problem is that to put the president’s plan in place will require major coercion and tax increases on all Americans (not just the wealthy). This is not what Obama promised during the 2008 campaign.
The real issue is that the president believes government is more efficient than the private sector in managing all aspects of our lives — including offering efficient, inexpensive universal health coverage. If his program becomes law, we will all end up receiving our health care through government. The late Ted Kennedy’s vision of “Medicare for All” will be realized. (In his speech last night, Obama quoted from a letter he had received from the late senator prior to his death, in which Kennedy talked about the moral imperative of health-care reform.) In practice, that will mean rationed care and long waiting lists.
Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care.”