• Victor C. Bolles

Heartless

President Donald Trump had called the House’s healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “mean” and said he hoped that the Senate version would be a “plan with heart” (which he apparently equates with more money). Well, the Senate came out with their plan yesterday (June 22, 2017) and it took Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about ten seconds to label it “heartless”. All I know is that if you are dependent on a kind-hearted government for your well being you are in deep trouble.

I don’t need to read the wonkish details of the Senate’s plan to know that it is basically an entitlement that they are trying to disguise as something else. It is likely to be a step back from the two or three steps forward that President Obama made when he created the Affordable Care Act. But it is still an expansion of the healthcare entitlement. As Charles Krauthammer said on Special Report (Fox News) “you can’t retract an entitlement once it has been granted”.

Thus the rage we witness as protestors against the bill proclaim that repealing Obamacare equals death (it makes me wonder how they survived prior to Obamacare). These people believe that they are totally dependent on government for their well-being and only a cruel, heartless government would take that away from them. And that is exactly what the progressive wing of the Democratic Party wants them to believe. Obamacare was only a stepping-stone toward a single payer healthcare system (as advocated by socialist Senator Bernie Sanders) where everyone is totally dependent on government for healthcare.

That’s not what the Founders wanted when they declared independence and wrote a constitution for limited government. They wanted people to be independent of government to the greatest extent possible. That is called freedom. Only free people can truly realize their full potential. Independent people feel capable and confident. Dependent people feel vulnerable and afraid.

Shouldn’t our elected representatives be trying to develop a healthcare system that makes us feel confident that we are capable of managing our own health? Of course, in any large population there will be some, because of various reasons, that are not capable of managing their own health and that need the assistance of government or a charitable organization. And healthcare may be too costly for the very poor. But the majority of free people in a free country should be able to afford and manage their own healthcare. The question is how to do this?

The free market economic system works for healthcare just like other sectors of the economy but for the free market system to work prices must be meaningful to consumers. Everything the government under Republican and Democratic administrations has done for decades has been to reduce the impact of prices on healthcare consumers. As a result, the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed. Healthcare now absorbs 17% of the economy, far more than any other country on Earth. Not only can people not afford to pay for healthcare, the country can’t afford to pay for healthcare at these prices.

The cost of Lasik surgery, which is not covered by most insurance policies (which is not really insurance), has plummeted. The cost of Lasik surgery in 1998 was $2200 per eye but you can get it now for $250 per eye (a reduction of 89%). But the cost of "insured" procedures has gone the opposite direction. Do you know how much your doctor charges your insurance company for an office visit or a procedure? Do you care? No! You don’t care! The price is irrelevant to you and as long as prices are irrelevant costs will keep going up.

Wait a minute, our progressive friends will say. Government will control prices and that will control the spiraling costs. The Soviets tried that. It didn’t work (see, Whatever Happened to the Invisible Hand of Capitalism? by Vitaliy Katsenelson who grew up in the Soviet Union). Progressives won’t be happy until the government has its hand in everything we do – not just healthcare. What happens to our freedom and independence then?

No single healthcare bill can fix our healthcare system once and for all. Our legislators need to develop a process where that can unwind decades of well intentioned but wrong-headed policies that are too numerous to mention in a brief article. It will take time for competition to wring out the high prices and to make sure that health insurance is not applied routine costs but extraordinary expenses (like other kinds of insurance). But it is about time that our elected representatives start working to preserve and increase our freedom and stop creating new entitlements that will slowly (but surely) enslave us.

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