Roger Hedgecock: "Frankenstein" of All Healthcare Reforms

Posted: July 06, 20091:00 am Eastern © 2009

President Obama has left it to politically wounded Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chair of the Senate Health Committee, to write the administration bill on health care "reform" – the HELP bill.

Obama has left the details to Dodd and other Democrats on the committee after laying down general themes. The president wants to "fix" health care by mandating health insurance for all, by creating a government insurance company to "keep the private insurers honest" and by imposing tighter price controls on the spiraling cost of current government-run health care programs Medicare and Medicaid.

There's no doubting the short term political wisdom here. Bill Clinton found out the hard way in 1993 that having your wife write a bill in secret that would nationalize 17 percent of the private economy wouldn't fly in Congress.

But, the 2009 Obama approach also has a fatal flaw. The HELP bill achieves none of the president's objectives. Congress is creating a Frankenstein of a bill, and the peasants with pitchforks and torches were showing up at the district offices during the Independence Day holiday.

More Americans are waking up to the facts of this "reform" – facts at variance with the repeated rosy promotional statements of the president.

Obama repeats the mantra that "reform" will mean health care will cost less, that you will be able to keep your health plan that you like and keep the doctor of your choice. The congressional drafts of the "reform" contradict all three statements.

The new, improved HELP bill reported out of committee last week would "cover 97 percent of Americans" and only "cost $600 billion" over 10 years. That's $600 billion more than current health care costs.

An earlier draft of the bill (said the Congressional Budget Office) would still leave 10 million Americans without health insurance. Under the latest draft, if 97 percent are covered, doesn't that mean that just less than 10 million Americans still are not covered (3 percent times 304 million Americans)? We would be spending $600 billion more – and still 10 million don't have health care coverage?

And how did the latest draft bill cut the cost from the original CBO estimate of $1.6 trillion to only an additional $600 billion? Two ways.

First, the price was cut by believing that price controls will work. "Price controls" means paying doctors, hospitals and drug companies less. Massachusetts tried this, and the increased demand for "free" medical care plus the shortage of doctors willing to work for less led to long delays for treatment. Welcome to the state mandated/run system. The care is free – when it's available.

Second, the estimated cost was lowered by taxing employers if they choose not to have an employee health insurance plan. The tax would raise $52 billion over 10 years to help fund the coverage for those who "can't afford it." Fixing the new tax lower than the cost of providing the insurance to employees means more employers will opt to get rid of the insurance – putting employees at the mercy of the government company coverage and doctors. Again, this is what happened in Massachusetts

So much for the Obama promise of keeping the "plan you like" and the "doctor of your choice." This Frankenstein bill does the opposite.

The latest HELP bill draft also incorporates the Obama idea for a government insurance company. Such a company, not subject to lawsuit for malpractice, not subject to state regulation, not subject to federal taxes, OSHA regulation, EPA concerns, etc – in other words not subject to the labyrinth of laws, rules and regulations applied to "private" insurance companies – redefines the meaning of "leveling the playing field."

The favored "government" company will inevitably dominate health care insurance choices for the consumer just as the dominant government Workers' Compensation Insurance company has done in California.

This Frankenstein bill has a deeper flaw. With health insurance provided at no cost to everyone making under 300 percent of the federal poverty standard, millions of people illegally in the country will be covered – at your expense.

Here's the Obama plan: Put some fresh lipstick on this Frankenstein and send it to Congress for vote at the end of July.

The HELP bill will increase overall health care costs, raise taxes and reduce consumer choice. "Reform"? "Change you can believe in"? Or a Frankenstein bill that more and more Americans are rejecting ?