Destroying Private Health Insurance

Destroying Private Health Insurance

By Robert Tracinski - October 2, 2009

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted-twice-to reject the "public option," a government-run health-insurance plan that would "compete" with private insurance.

This vote may have some symbolic significance as a measure of the public's rejection of government-run health care. But in practical terms, it doesn't much matter. The creation of public health insurance was never the real heart of Obamacare. The real essence of Obama's agenda is the destruction of private health insurance.

Obama has launched a war on private health insurance, and the Baucus bill contains every essential element of that war.

The Baucus bill includes an "individual mandate" that requires everyone to buy health insurance-but not inexpensive, high-deductible catastrophic health insurance. Instead, it imposes a requirement for pricier comprehensive coverage that pays for routine costs like annual checkups. The bill then requires that insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and that they charge customers at high risk of medical problems the same rates as those with lower risks-which means that these extra expenses will have to be paid for by raising everyone else's premiums.

And then the Baucus bill delivers the knock-out punch: after forcing us into expensive comprehensive insurance plans and driving up the cost of those plans, the bill would impose a massive 40% tax on "gold-plated" plans-which turn out to include the health-insurance plans of many in the middle class. So that drives up the cost of insurance even higher.

You can see why it doesn't much matter whether or not we have a "public option" in the original bill. Everything else in the bill is designed to make private health insurance unaffordable-so that in a few years, people will clamor for a government-subsidized "public option," and the same politicians who destroyed private health insurance can make a big show of coming to the rescue of their victims.

What should really terrify us, though, is what comes next. What happens after people have been forced out of private insurance and into government-run insurance? Well, that's already happened for everyone over the age of 65, and Obama's plans for Medicare gives us a preview of our future under a government-run system. As Dick Morris points out, the elderly have turned against Obama's plan because they realize that "three-quarters of Obamacare is to be financed by slashing $500 billion from Medicare over the next ten years," primarily by cutting the fees paid to doctors for their services.

In fact, such cuts are already in the works. The Obama administration recently announced a plan to cut Medicare payments to cardiologists and oncologists. These are the two medical specialties that have probably added the most to human life expectancy over the past forty years. But the administration has decided that there should be fewer of these life-saving specialists-the new rules will probably result in the shutdown of cancer clinics in smaller towns, for example-just as the "silver tsunami" of Baby Boomers comes pouring into the Medicare system.

Some supercilious commentators on the left have snickered about the supposed contradiction of town hall protesters who say they are opposed to government-run healthcare and then say that they don't want Congress to touch their Medicare benefits. But this is not really a contradiction. The elderly know what it feels like to be dependent on bureaucrats and Congress for their health-care-and to be afraid that they will be denied medical care because Congress wants to cut costs. And they know that this is the future we're all headed for if Obama gets his health-care bill through Congress.

The irony is that Obama is seeking to wipe out the private option in America just as many people are trying to resurrect a private option where it has been outlawed. In America, elderly patients have launched a lawsuit protesting their forced enrollment in Medicare, while Canadians are suing to demand their right to buy private health insurance, which is currently outlawed in Canada. As one doctor who runs an illegal private clinic put it: "What we have in Canada is access to a government, state-mandated wait list. You cannot force a citizen in a free and democratic society to simply wait for healthcare, and outlaw their ability to extricate themselves from a wait list."

Before we find ourselves making the same complaints, we should stand up to save our private health insurance-by demanding that our senators stop Obama's assault on the private option.

Robert Tracinski is editor of The Tracinski Letter and a contributor to RealClearMarkets.

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