Human Exceptionalism

Daschle’s Dishonesty by Omission in the Great Health Care Debate

Almost Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle has a piece in Newsweek promoting national health care. Some of what he writes is accurate, but the column is utterly disingenuous in not mentioning the rationing issue.

Daschle begins by noting that Medicare and Medicaid are popular programs, and not purely socialized. That is because market economics were put in to the program after their inception, but let us not get into that here. He then claims chirpily, that studies show having a public plan to compete with private ones will reduce premiums for everybody, which is part of cost containment, which we all want! Maybe, but pardon my cynicism.

Daschle then turns to the strongest argument for the creation of a national public plan. From the column:

[A] public plan will guarantee improved access to our health-care system. Today more than 47 million Americans have no health insurance at some point during the year. Nearly 50 percent of all Americans don’t have the coverage they expect to have when they seek the care they need. A public plan will virtually eliminate the industry practice of rejecting someone based upon health status or ability to pay. Even more, it maximizes portability (without reliance on employment). Finally, as Medicare patients have demonstrated time and time again, they have significantly better access to doctors for routine care of illness or injury than those on employer-based plans do.

The 47 million is misleading since some of that is based on young people, and even middle-aged–a good friend of mine, for example–who could afford insurance but choose not to buy it. And I think it also includes millions of illegal aliens–who we cannot afford to cover. But there is no doubt that the weakest aspect of our current system is the possibility of losing one’s coverage and not being able to afford a private plan, or not qualifying for one due to a pre-existing condition. On the other hand, if pre-existing conditions are to be covered–and we have to find a way to do that–it will be the public plan that gets those folk and I don’t see how premiums will be reduced.

But then Daschle goes into disingenuous land:

[W]ith health reform, Americans are likely going to have some kind of choice. Allow a public health-insurance plan or accept the fact that you are in for far more regulation as we construct a new system without it. With real competition, potentially far less regulation is warranted.

Less regulation? Who is Daschle kidding? He has pushed a national utilitarian bioethics council that would tell private and public plans what to cover and what not to cover–how would that be “less” regulation? Daschle has supported rationing, and indeed, our president seems to too, as noted (approvingly, I think) by futilitarian blogger Thaddeus Pope.

Daschle ends with:

Our team is ready to play; it is a new season, and we’ve waited a long time. The American people have seen affordable health care for all as something out of “Field of Dreams,” and they like what they see. Build it and they will come.

Never mind the insipid baseball analogy that infuses the entire column, “affordable health care for all,” is nothing but a phony-baloney slogan and I am so sick of politics by slogan. Whatever system we get will hardly be affordable. Indeed, Medicare threatened to sink us into the ocean of red ink even before we went on this drunken borrow and spend binge of irresponsible governance upon which our rulers in Washington have embarked. And if it is rationed, it won’t be health care for all either, just for those the least expensive for which to care.

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