Critical Condition

Why Conservatives Still Can’t Support Obama’s Health Care Overhaul

Through his Secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama indicated over the weekend that he is willing to drop the public option for government-funded health insurance to get his overhaul scheme through Congress. If true, it is a highly desirable concession. But it is not nearly enough to merit the support of conservatives and Republicans.

The House version of the plan still includes a new 8 percent payroll tax on businesses that do not provide health insurance for their employees. That would be a heavy new burden on jobs, particularly on the small businesses that create most new jobs in America, raising unemployment further. No conservative worth his salt can support that.

The same goes for the new income tax penalty of 2.5 percent of gross income for individuals that do not obtain health insurance. Republicans cannot support the government requiring all Americans to buy health care, let alone health care that meets such liberal politically-correct benefits as forced abortion coverage. That is too great a restriction on freedom.

Without that, there is no need for a new national Health Insurance Commissioner to specify the mandated benefit plan and penalize employers who do not provide it. That whole bureaucracy must be dropped.

Naturally, of course, Republicans cannot support any new bureaucracy that would have any power to ration health care, the real death panels. So no bureau for cost effectiveness, where the government decides if your health care is worth the costs; no Federal Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, where the government decides what health care works and what doesn’t (as if a federal bureaucracy would have a clue); no pay for performance, which is a scheme for the government to enforce its rationing decisions on doctors and hospitals; and no Federal Health Board with the power to adopt cuts in health care under Medicare, as Obama’s Budget Director Peter Orszag has proposed and President Obama has endorsed.

Republicans and conservatives also cannot support a new entitlement that would help families earning up to $88,000 a year pay for health insurance. Without those new entitlement handouts, we won’t need the income-tax rate increases that altogether would raise top tax rates in the U.S. above the level of France and most other western countries in the OECD. This is an outrageous confiscatory tax proposal that will counterproductively and quite rightly cause a devastating flight of capital from these shores.

To be clear, I am not arguing that Republicans should seek to compromise with Obama and the Democrats on health care. To the contrary, I think Republicans and conservatives should unify behind some combination of the proposal offered by Representative Paul Ryan and Senators Tom Coburn and Richard Burr and the proposal offered by Senator Jim DeMint. (I discuss what such a comprehensive and truly conservative plan would involve in a recent study for the Heartland Institute.) That would attractively contrast with Obama’s government takeover of health care. Republicans and conservatives should pressure the Blue Dogs to come join such an alternative proposal — or to face certain defeat.

— Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under the first President Bush.