Health Care Deceit

The
current health care
"debate"
shows how far gone representative government is in the
United States. Members of Congress represent the

powerful interest groups that fill
their campaign coffers, n
ot
the people who vote for them.

The
health care bill is not about health care. It is about
protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance
companies. The main feature of the health care bill is
the "individual
mandate,"
which requires everyone in America to buy
health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max
Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in



contributions

over
his career from the insurance industry, proposes to
impose up to a



$3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health
insurance.

The
determination of
"our"
elected representatives to serve the insurance
industry is so compelling that Congress is



incapable of recognizing

the
absurdity of these proposals.

The
reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that
the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the
uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They
cannot afford health insurance any more than employers
can afford to provide it.

It is
absurd to mandate that people purchase what they cannot
afford and to fine them for failing to do so. A person
who cannot pay a health insurance premium cannot pay the
fine.

These
proposals are like solving the homeless problem by
requiring the homeless to purchase a house.

In
his



speech Obama said


"we`ll provide tax credits"

for "those
individuals and small businesses who still can`t afford
the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange"

and he said low-cost coverage will be offered to those
with preexisting medical conditions. A tax credit is
useless to those without income unless the credit is
refundable, and subsidized coverage doesn`t do much for
those millions of Americans with no jobs.


Baucus masquerades as a defender of the health impaired
with his proposal to require insurers to provide
coverage to all comers as if the problem of health care
can be reduced to preexisting conditions and cancelled
policies. It was left to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to point
out that the health care bill ponies up 30 million more
customers for the private insurance companies.

The
private sector is no longer the answer, because the
income levels of the vast majority of Americans are
insufficient to bear the cost of health insurance today.
To provide some perspective, the monthly premium
for a 60-year old female for a group policy
(employer-provided) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in
Florida is about $1,200. That comes to $14,400 per year.
Only employees in high productivity jobs that can


provide both a livable salary and health care can expect
to have employer-provided coverage. If a 60-year old
female has to buy a non-group policy as an individual,
the premium would be even higher. How, for example, is a



Wal-Mart shelf stocker or checkout clerk

going to be able to pay a private
insurance premium?

Even
the present public option–Medicare–is very expensive
to those covered. Basic Medicare is insufficient
coverage. Part B has been added, for which about $100
per month is deducted from the covered person`s Social
Security check. If the person is still


earning or has other retirement income, an
"income-related
monthly adjustment"
is also deducted as part of the
Part B premium. And if the person is still working, his
earnings are subject to the 2.9 percent Medicare tax.

Even
with Part B, Medicare coverage is still insufficient
except for the healthy. For many people, additional
coverage from private supplementary policies, such as
the ones sold by AARP, is necessary. These premiums can
be as much as $277 per month. Deductibles remain and
prescriptions are only 50% covered. If the drug
prescription policy is chosen, the premium is higher.

This
leaves a retired person on Medicare who has no other
retirement income of significance paying as much as
$4,500 per year in premiums in order to create coverage
under Medicare that still leaves half of his
prescription medicines out-of-pocket. Considering the
cost of some prescription medicines, a Medicare-covered
person with Part B and a supplementary policy can still
face bankruptcy.


Therefore, everyone should take note that a
"public option"
can leave people with large out-of-pocket costs. I know
a professional who has chosen to continue working beyond
retirement age. His Medicare coverage with supplemental
coverage, Medicare tax, and income-related monthly
adjustment comes to $16,400 per year. Those people who
want to deny Medicare to the rich will cost the system a
lot of money.

What
the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health
system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that
they will undertake the arduous training and accept the
stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.

A
private health care system worked in the days before
expensive medical technology, malpractice suits, high
costs of bureaucracy associated with third-party payers
and heavy investment in combating fraud, and pressure on
insurance companies from Wall Street to improve
"shareholder
returns."


Despite the rise in premiums, payments to health care
providers, such as doctors, appear to be falling along
with coverage to policy holders. The system is no longer
functional and no longer makes sense. Health care has
become an incidental rather than primary purpose of the
health care system. Health care plays second fiddle to
insurance company profits and salaries to bureaucrats
engaged in fraud prevention and discovery. There is no
point in denying coverage to one-sixth of the population
in the name of saving a nonexistent private free market
health care system.

The
only way to reduce the cost of health care is to take
the profit and paperwork out of health care.


Nothing humans design will be perfect. However, Congress
is making it clear to the public that the wrong issues
are front and center, such as the belief of Rep. Joe
Wilson (R-SC) and others that illegal aliens and
abortions will be covered if government pays the bill.


Debate focuses on subsidiary issues, because Congress no
longer writes the bills it passes. As Theodore Lowi made
clear in his book,
The End of Liberalism,


the


New
Deal


transferred law-making from the legislative to the
executive branch. Executive branch agencies and
departments write bills that they want and hand them off
to sponsors in the House and Senate. Powerful interest
groups took up the same practice.

The
interest groups that finance political campaigns expect
their bills to be sponsored and passed.

Thus:
a health care reform bill based on forcing people to
purchase private health insurance and fining them if
they do not.

When
bills become mired in ideological conflict, as has
happened to the health care bill, something usually
passes nevertheless. The president, his PR team, and
members of Congress want a health care bill on their
resume and to be able to claim that they passed a health
care bill, regardless of whether it provides any health
care.

The
cost of adding public expenditures for health care to a
budget drowning in red ink from wars, bank bailouts, and
stimulus packages means that the most likely outcome of
a health care bill will benefit insurance companies and
use mandated private coverage to save public money by
curtailing Medicare and Medicaid.

The
public`s interest is not considered to be the important
determinant. The politicians have to please the
insurance companies and reduce health care expenditures
in order to save money for another decade or two of war
in the Middle East.

The
telltale part of Obama`s speech was the applause in
response to his pledge that
"I will not sign
a plan that adds one dime to our deficits."
Yet,
Obama and his fellow politicians have no hesitation to
add trillions of dollars to the deficit in order to fund
wars.

The
profits of military/security companies are partly
recycled into campaign contributions. To cut war
spending in order to finance a public health care system
would cost politicians campaign contributions from both
the insurance industry and the military/security
industry.


Politicians are not going to allow that to happen.

It
was the war in



Afghanistan
,
not health care, that President Obama declared to be a
"
necessity."

Paul Craig Roberts [email
him
] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term.  He was Associate Editor of the
Wall
Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of


Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington
;
 Alienation
and the Soviet Economy
and

Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy
,
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of


The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice
. Click

here
for Peter
Brimelow`s
Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.