Pundits, commentators, journalists, and basically anyone and everyone is predicting that some form of universal healthcare will be at the top of the priorities for President Obama and Congress. The Wall Street Journal agrees.
"Universal" government-run health care proved too ambitious even for FDR, who stripped it out of the Social Security Act of 1935. Lyndon Johnson settled for Medicare and Medicaid. Now liberals think the political moment has finally arrived to achieve what has eluded every other Democratic President from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.The WSJ editorial goes on to examine the most likely plan, recently released by Montana Senator Max Baucus. In essence, the plan consists of the creation of a "public insurance option" that would "compete" with heavily regulated "private" plans in some sort of "national insurance exchange." To help pay for it all, it would also create an "individual mandate," much like we have here in Massachusetts, because "the many moving parts don't work together unless the young and healthy foot the bill for care of the older and sicker." Now, why do I have visions in my head of old and infirm patients cannibalizing young men and women in sharp business suits? Here is the naked essence of socially conscious policies and the altruism on which they are based.
What will the plan do to us if implemented? The profound failure of Medicare to control costs or provide adequate care serves as a good comparison:
According to the Medicare trustees, the program's excess costs over the next 75 years -- that is, the difference between expected outlays and revenues -- is more than $36 trillion, which even they acknowledge is several trillion too low given current trends. Even if Congress doubled all individual and corporate tax rates, it still wouldn't raise enough revenue to pay for Medicare and Medicaid.Out with the good, in with the bad. The tried and true methodology of government interference. As things get inevitably worse...
The Obama-Baucus solution to this slow-motion catastrophe is to add tens of millions more people to the federal balance sheet. Because the public option will enjoy taxpayer sponsorship, it will offer generous packages to consumers that no private company could ever afford or justify. And because federal officials will run not only the new plan but also the "market" in which it "competes" with private programs -- like playing both umpire and one of the teams on the field -- they will crowd out private alternatives and gradually assume a health-care monopoly. [bold added]
Eventually, the public option will import Medicare's price controls into the private sector as it tries to manage the inevitable cost overruns. When that doesn't work, Congress will deal with the problem by capping overall spending and rationing care through politics (instead of prices) -- like Canada does today. [bold added]The first 100 days of a presidency are the most active, and therefore the most dangerous (at least in today's political and philosophical climate). I fear we will be hit with the devastating one-two punch of nationalized healthcare and disastrous carbon-capping environmental regulations. America is already staggering under the furious assault of Big Government, and I'm not sure she can absorb the blows coming in Obama's 100 days.
Update: See a follow-up post on this topic, More Bad News on Nationalized Health Care.