The pres­i­dent’s health care prom­ises

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Boos and awk­ward si­lences marked Pres­i­dent Obama’s speech at the June 15 Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing in Chicago, and for good rea­son. Not only did he refuse to sup­port caps for mal­prac­tice suits, but he said his ad­min­is­tra­tion would un­der­cut how much doc­tors make. In the June 15 AMA ad­dress and an­other speech on June 14, the pres­i­dent re­it­er­ated his prom­ise to save “$313 bil­lion in Medi­care and Med­i­caid spending.” His line was greeted by stony si­lence from the AMA. Mr. Obama un­der­stood why and even ad­mit­ted, “To­day’s Medi­care rates will be ap­plied broadly in a way that means our cost sav­ings are com­ing off your backs.”

The gov­ern­ment is good at “sav­ing” money by sim­ply re­im­burs­ing Medi­care and Med­i­caid providers for less than their cost. It is es­sen­tially a tax that the gov­ern­ment im­poses — a tax that doc­tors and hos­pi­tals pay for stay­ing in busi­ness. But this tax raises doc­tors’ and hos­pi­tals’ costs, forc­ing them to charge pri­vate pa­tients more to com­pen­sate for the lost Medi­care and Med­i­caid rev­enue.

In the short run, th­ese higher costs will force more peo­ple out of pri­vate in­sur­ance and into Mr. Obama’s pro­posed gov­ern­ment-pro­vided in­sur­ance. In the longer run, as fewer peo­ple carry pri- vate in­sur­ance, it dis­ap­pears and there is no one to pay this tax. With the profit mo­tive re­moved, there will be fewer hos­pi­tals and fewer doc­tors prac­tic­ing medicine. That means less health care to go around.

The fu­ture of this type of cost cut­ting can be seen by check­ing out the United King­dom. Be­ing a doc­tor in Bri­tain is not as pres­ti­gious as it once was be­cause it’s not as lu­cra­tive. Many of Bri­tain’s doc­tors are for­eign­ers who em­i­grated to prac­tice medicine. Or take Canada. When the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment took over the health in­sur­ance pro­gram there, many of their best doc­tors left Canada and came to prac­tice in Amer­ica where there was still good money to be made in the pro­fes­sion. The re­sult in both Bri­tain and Canada is less care and de­lays in re­ceiv­ing care.

“If you like your health care, the only thing re­form will mean is your health care will cost less,” Mr. Obama con­sis­tently prom­ises. “If any­one says oth­er­wise, they are ei­ther try­ing to mis­lead you or don’t have their facts straight.” It’s Mr. Obama who is be­ing mis­lead­ing.

Mr. Obama keeps claim­ing crit­ics who say gov­ern­ment will ra­tion care are just be­ing dis­hon­est. No one has to take our word for it. Just look at Mr. Obama’s own pro­pos­als to “save” money from Medi­care and Med­i­caid.

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