Obamacare goes wrong direction, threatens personal freedom

November 20, 2009 — by Shannon Galvin

Let’s party like it’s 1990. 1,990 pages, that is, filled with uncountable procedures, tax increases and amendments that compromise America’s Affordable Health Choices Act that squeezed through the House of Representatives.

But wait a second. If one were to read the entire act through, at a speed of one page per minute, it would take 1 day, 9 hours and 10 minutes. No one knows where the money is coming from, what consequences it will have on average Americans and what kind of programs special-interest lobbyists sneaked in through the process. The bill is giving an unprecedented expansion of power to the federal government, when we should really be looking in the other direction.

While health care reform is most certainly necessary, the U.S. does not need a massive new health care entitlement. The current bill aims to increase the number of insured Americans but will ultimately be hindered by a confusing mess of rationing and protocol under an alarming lack of oversight. Instead, the solution lies in less government control and more individual empowerment.

It’s a well-repeated fact that profit motives, competition and emphasis on the individual will lead to an increase in cost control and effectiveness in any economic market. The problem today with health care––one that will only grow with Obamacare––is that the government imposes too much control and too many restrictions, which in turn drive up costs and push people out. Instead of throwing health care into the sticky hands of the federal government, we should move in the opposite direction and look for free-market reform alternatives.

Let the individual make decisions

First of all, health care coverage needs to be made portable. The current bill does increase portability, but doing this does not require a complete government plan. Instead, legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductable health insurance plans and health savings accounts should be lifted. Such accounts can be regularly contributed to by the employer and allow the individual to choose how to spend it, not federal laws. Over time, the money grows and can roll over to next year.

Additionally, in the current bill that passed in the House of Representatives, the government establishes a public health care option that all Americans will be required to enroll in or pay a penalty of a 2.5 percent on their income tax. Americans shouldn’t be forced to buy government-approved policies whether or not they truly need them; instead, choice is key.

Life’s two certainties

As Benjamin Franklin once said, there are only two certainties in life––death and taxes. And with an already projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009 and several more trillions over the next decade, Americans can expect to see a tax hike to pay off debts and finance a bloated health care plan. In the end, it turns out this “free” health care really isn’t that free after all, because it will be paid with higher taxes and cuts in other areas.

And the costs are only going to go up. Medicaid, for example, now costs a frightening 37 times more than expected when it was launched, even after adjusting for inflation, according to “The Wall Street Journal.” The current bill currently accounts for all spending through tax increases and other cuts, but there’s nothing to say that costs will only increase with time and add to the already staggering national debt.

The problem with socialized care

Before any new far-reaching federal health programs are launched, Congress needs to take a serious look at what it already runs. Medicare fraud is currently off the charts, and with an alarming lack of oversight, it costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

And once the United States solves the rampant fraud and waste of Medicare, it needs to look into the socialized health care programs already in place in other countries. While countries such as Canada and England boast low costs per individual and overall numbers of patients treated, the long waiting lists that their citizens must suffer are often overlooked. According to a report by Investor’s Business Daily, Canada currently has a waiting list of 830,000 for various procedures. England has 1.8 million waiting.

Tort reform essential

To lower medical costs, the government also needs to pay attention to tort reform to help cap frivolous and ruinous lawsuits. Doctors are forced to pay outrageous amounts in insurance and lawyer fees, and as a result, health care costs soar. If the current act passes, malpractice lawsuit costs would only explode due to federal rationing of equipment and services. However, the 1,990-page bill takes a step in the opposite direction, developing a new “alternative medical liability law.” A state will only qualify in this if it “does not limit attorney’s fees or impose caps on damages.” By doing this, the bill is only going to raise costs.

Living for the future

Lastly, we cannot enact any health reforms without addressing the root cause of poor health, which ultimately is an individual responsibility. Most diseases that account for 70 percent of government spending on health care are preventable. While genetics also have an effect, most diseases can still be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle. It’s integral that Americans step up and take responsibility for their own health, not expecting someone else’s money to pick up the tab. People will be less concerned to take the initiative for their own health and costs will soar. While the current bill takes a step in the right direction by getting rid of unfair insurance policies regarding pre-existing conditions, it should not remove personal health responsibility from the individual on preventable issues like smoking and exercise.

The necessity of health care reform is no question. However, Obamacare is clearly moving in the opposite direction that will be required to fix the problem in the long term. Instead of big government, attention should be focused on individual freedom, because once we let the government enforce more restrictions over its citizens, it will only result in further losses of personal freedom and choice.