By DAVID B. MICHELSON
In the ongoing debate over national healthcare, it is of utmost importance that we reject the speechcraft of politicians and focus instead on the merits of the programs they would impose upon us. The argument put forth by the White House is that America’s current healthcare system is broken. Any opposition to the president’s healthcare agenda may therefore be dismissed as irrational support for the status quo. I reject the premise of this argument for reasons I hope to make plain.
First of all, the current system is not ‘broken’ in the sense that it still provides the best quality of care in the world to those who can afford it. The problem is that the costs are prohibitively high for most working-class Americans. This is (as Democrats have correctly surmised) at least partially attributable to excesses in the insurance industry. Cost overruns in the healthcare industry are also perpetuated by predatory lawsuits and cost overruns from defensive medicine, the practice of ordering excessive tests without medical purpose so as to avoid potential lawsuits. As currently written, Congress’s healthcare reform bill does nothing to address the latter issue. President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress contend that the objective of healthcare reform is to drive down the costs of treatment and make healthcare more affordable for working Americans. Yet the single greatest action our elected representatives could take to drive down healthcare costs, legislative tort reform, is conspicuously absent from their legislation. Why?
Furthermore, I reject the notion that opposition to national healthcare equates to support for the status quo. We are in agreement; changes are necessary to make healthcare more equitable and sustainable for the American people. There is a proper role for government in instituting these changes. However, it is not the role that Obama and his allies in Congress would have for themselves – providing insurance and dictating terms of coverage through a government-run public option in the insurance market. The public option, if instituted, would crowd out the private sector with government-subsidized programs, reducing choice and competition in the healthcare market. Life-saving procedures covered under private insurance may be deemed too costly by government regulators. The result: lower quality of care for millions of Americans. I believe there is a better way to solve this country’s healthcare woes. Question with boldness the assumptions of your politicians. They are often wrong.