Obama’s troubles with healthcare
— Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and the former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. —
Healthcare reform is in trouble, because President Obama and congressional leaders are not adequately addressing issues that trouble many Americans.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius caution Americans to ignore terrorist claims about death panels. Reasonable enough—unseemly critics on both the right and the left seek to stir up unwarranted hysteria.
Sebelius defends end of life counseling from physicians as a benefit families need when facing difficult treatment choices for elderly relatives. However, what worries people is such counseling in the context of government rationing.
All health insurers ration care—private insurers in the United States and government-run health services in Canada and Europe face tough choices and limited resources. U.S private insurers generally don’t deny or delay critical care that could cause death—officials implementing such a policy would land in jail.
Foreign public systems are noted for long waits for specialists and critical procedures like hip replacements and bypass surgery. In Sweden, for example, delays result in suffering and deaths that would not occur in the expensive, but more humane, U.S. system. No one is held accountable, the elderly are particularly vulnerable, and that is euthanasia, de facto if not de jure.
President Obama promises Americans they won’t lose private health insurance if they want to keep it. However, legislation moving through the House requires businesses to pay an 8 percent payroll tax if they don’t provide healthcare and creates a government-run alternative to private insurance. Moderate senators would like to create non-profit cooperatives instead but to gain support from liberals in Congress, those non-profits would operate much like government agencies.
It won’t be long before businesses that pay employees an average of $50,000, or even $75,000, annually figure out it would be cheaper and easier to pay the tax than continue providing private insurance. Many people who work in small businesses would be forced by employers to purchase insurance from a government or non-profit agency. Most Americans don’t want to rely on the Post Office or the United Way for their healthcare.
Healthcare costs at least 50 percent more in the United States than in Canada and Western Europe. Important factors include expensive malpractice suits, inefficient insurance company bureaucracies, poor staffing practices and dangerously low standards at many hospitals, and doctor fees and drug prices much higher than abroad.
Early on President Obama gave the tort lawyers a pass, and is busy cutting deals with drug companies and other healthcare businesses that won’t appreciably bring down U.S. costs. That is why his healthcare reform will require $1 trillion in new taxes.
The president promises to soak the rich to raise that cash, but he proposes to tax them for all his other initiatives too. Unless he wants all wealthy Americans to move to Switzerland, that is simply impossible.
Americans are losing patience. They want healthcare fixed but the president is not delivering what they want.