Myths, Lies and Stupidity About Health Care

President Barack Obama’s health care plan, we are told, will spend $1 trillion over the next 10 years. But since trillion is the new billion, Americans aren’t supposed to worry about that.

Obama’s health care plan will cause employers to stop providing private health insurance for millions of employees and instead shift employees to public care. But Obama says that government is the best arbiter of your health, so Americans aren’t supposed to worry about that.

Obama’s health care plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will add only 16 million of the 46 million uninsured to the rolls of the insured. But Obama says that’s an improvement, so Americans aren’t supposed to worry about that.

Here’s something we should worry about: Who are the current uninsured for whom all of us are supposed to sacrifice our current health care plans? And should the other 300 million of us turn to government care just to help those 46 million?

Here’s a quick profile of those who are uninsured. Ten million of the uninsured are illegal immigrants — which, by the way, doesn’t mean they don’t get health care. Walk into virtually any emergency room in California and illegal immigrants are the bulk of the population. Education costs and health care costs for illegal immigrants compose between 16.4 percent and 20.5 percent of California’s budget deficit.

Liberal commentators are already urging that Obama’s nationalized health care plan cover illegal immigrants. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post suggests that a failure to include illegal immigrants in the new health care redesign would create unemployment among U.S. citizens; businesses would not be forced to pick up the health care tabs for illegal immigrants and would therefore hire them at greater rates. This is undoubtedly true. But the solution is to prosecute businesses that hire illegal immigrants — or, better yet, not to require employers to cover employees. Only liberals would use employer malfeasance as an excuse to sacrifice workers’ current insurance plans.

Another 9 million “uninsured” have household incomes of above $75,000. That’s 3.4 times the federal poverty standard for a family of four. For a married couple, that’s 6.9 times the federal poverty standard. Some of these people – 30 percent — are just temporarily without health insurance for six months or less. Others voluntarily avoid health insurance, even if they can afford it. And that’s a perfectly reasonable position — many people worry less about paying for the occasional visit to the doctor than about paying the monthly premiums. In essence, the Obama plan would force insurance on these people and force public insurance on the rest of us.

And then there are “12 million uninsured Americans … eligible for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health insurance program — but they haven’t signed up,” according to Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute and author of The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care. Again, voluntary behavior is voluntary. It’s not an excuse for government involvement.

So, to sum up, of those 46 million “uninsured,” a solid 31 million are uninsured in ways that require no fix from the federal government. That leaves 15 million uninsured unaccounted for. A nationalized health care plan of the sort Obama proposes therefore shifts health care for literally 95 percent of the population on behalf of 5 percent of the American population — 5 percent who, like illegal immigrants, receive emergency care under federal law.

The media and Obama have portrayed the American health system as a system in crisis. They point to skyrocketing premiums — the cost of a family policy is now $1,000 per month for employers. Obama says, “One out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care in a decade.” Premiums for family coverage have risen 78 percent since 2001. And the government programs Medicare and Medicaid will comprise a huge chunk of the federal budget in ten years, more than any other government expenditure.

Why these exponentially higher costs? Because of increased government involvement in the health care system. State regulations have decreased market flexibility by requiring that insurers cover unhealthy individuals at lower-cost and requiring that insurers cover certain hospitals and doctors. The federal and state governments have required that health care providers care for individuals without reimbursement – which means escalating costs for those who do pay. And both federal and state health care subsidization programs have encouraged health care providers and insurance to raise costs.

The answer is more of a free market, not less of one. The answer is competition between insurers, not government monopoly. The answer is a private system, not a public one.

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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