The Corner

A Matter of Fatal Flaws

Despite the news that President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress may use the budget-reconciliation process to cram through a government takeover of the health-care system, conservatives shouldn’t panic. The voting public is not reconciled to a government takeover, and there is still time to make the case for a real reform agenda based on consumer choice, competition, and innovation. Here are some places for opponents of the government takeover to start:

• The Consensus Group of health-care experts from a variety of research organizations has issued a statement opposing the Obama/Congress plan for nationalized health care. It summarizing some key objections, such as the dangers of government-controlled “comparative-effectiveness research” and the likelihood that any model that begins with a new federal health plan “competing” with private ones will end with a government monopoly. You can sign on to the Consensus Group’s “Do No Harm” petition at the Galen Institute site.

• The Heritage Foundation’s Dennis Smith explains that last point in greater detail — that any model allowing the federal government to “compete” with private insurers will be rigged and doomed to collapse into single-payer. A key passage:

While the proponents of such a proposal say that they want “fair” competition between the public and the private sectors, the details of these proposals tell a very different story. One objective of the public plan is to engineer artificially lower prices for medical services through the imposition of Medicare-style price controls. Such Medicare-style payment levels would undercut the market share of existing private health plans, and, combined with a mandate on employers, stack the incentives against workers in private employer-based health insurance by encouraging their employers to dump them into a new government-run health plan, regardless of their personal preferences in the matter.

In Congress, this “post-Clinton” strategy to achieve government-run health care would consist of a number of incremental but sequential steps, including the creation of a national health insurance exchange to regulate out of existence any health plans not favored by federal officials, and an employer mandate to accelerate the dumping of workers into the new government-run health plan. Much of this would be done through stealth. Congress would try to avoid many of the thorniest issues by leaving it up to the bureaucracy to fill in the blanks.

That won’t end well.

• Consumer-choice prophet Greg Scandlen uses his latest Consumer Power Report for the Heartland Institute to dissect some polling numbers on the major elements of the government-takeover plan, such as the pay-for-play mandate. Not surprisingly, measured public opinion on the technical issues of health-care reform depend heavily on how the question is asked and what information respondents are provided. The general propositions of consumer-driven health care are popular, but few Americans have a clear sense of how they can translate into a step-by-step reform plan (just as few Americans connect the first steps towards government takeover, such as expanding Medicare eligibility to near-retirees, with the end result of single-payer, which they tend to oppose).

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