Heritage President Ed Feulner on Health Care
This Monday the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) delivered a major dose of reality to Capitol Hill, affixing a $1 trillion price tag to the Kennedy-Dodd health care plan. Supporters of the Kennedy-Dodd approach then complained that the CBO only scored an incomplete version of the bill and Dodd-Kennedy staffers “were scrambling to give the CBO something closer to the final legislation.” You would think the fact that by their own admission their legislation is incomplete, would give Dodd-Kennedy supporters pause before pushing the bill through committee.
Nope. Yesterday they began their first markup hearing on the bill prompting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to observe: “This is the most incredible markup I’ve ever seen in my entire time at the United States Senate and in Congress. It is a joke if we run through this stack of papers here.”
The sorry state of our nation’s health care system is no laughing matter. Serious reform is needed. But we should be honest about which direction different types of reforms will take our country. To that end, Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner has written an open letter to the President and Congress on health care. First, Feulner pierces President Obama’s health care rhetoric:
If you like your health care package you can keep it: This assertion is difficult to square with the facts. The President says that a “public option”—a government plan—would just be one of many health care plans that Americans could select. In fact, a public plan will lead many employers to drop private health coverage for their workers and dump them into the public plan—just as many employers in the 1990s pushed their workers into cheaper managed care plans. According to independent analyses, as many as 119 million Americans could end up in a public plan. This is hardly letting people keep what they have. And many in Congress are eager to expand a public plan, with tight rules on what your doctor can do and how much he or she will be paid. Congress can do that because it will be both the “umpire” who sets the rules and the “team owner” of the public plan. There will be no “level-playing field.” We believe a public option will toll a death knell for private plans.
The end goal is not a single payer system: This is another Washington euphemism that confuses people. Let us all be clear: The “single payer” here is Uncle Sam, using taxpayers’ money, and not just paying the bills but calling the shots and deciding what care every American will get—or not get. The inclusion of a public option is nothing more than a Trojan horse. The architects of the President’s proposals, and the sponsors of his proposals on Capitol Hill, know that once a government plan is in place, private insurance companies will be eventually run out of business. The government already owns a major bank and auto company; we shouldn’t hand over the medical industry as well.
The proposals are deficit-neutral: The President also asserts that a government system will be fully financed. This is a stunning untruth. Analysts, including the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office–Congress’s own watchdog–have issued preliminary estimates that the cost could be high as $2 trillion over 10 years, with most of that borrowed money. Even squeezing Medicare payments and adding new tax revenue will not pay for the massive burden this plan would put on American families. And current congressional proposals would still leave millions without insurance. Washington always says that new costs will be paid by savings elsewhere, but these phantom savings never materialize. These new costs will be borne by American families.
Feulner then outlines what true bipartisan health care reform ought to look like:
Give families control of their health care: We need to let families—not the government—control decisions so they can choose the coverage they want. For this to happen private health insurance needs to be portable—that is, owned by Americans so they can take their package from job to job. The health care system we have today was conceived in the era of World War II, when many Americans worked for the same company all their lives. As we know, that is not the case today. The President has acknowledged this. But we do not need a public plan, or mandates on businesses, to have portability. We need changes in rules and the removal of tax penalties to allow families real choice and ownership.
Reform the tax system: For portability to become reality, we need to reform the tax system. Right now, families can get a tax break for their insurance only if they hand over control of their insurance to their boss, and leave their plan behind if they change jobs. That needs to change. We need to provide the same tax relief to families wherever they choose to get their plan. In that world of empowered families, plans would have to compete to satisfy them, not compete to cut costs for employers.
Bring on competition: Americans will get quality health care only with the mechanism that has given us quality in all other aspects of life: competition. The way to get quality care in America is to have insurers compete to satisfy families in an insurance market, one that provides transparent information, ease of delivery and quick results, and which is fair to families and their doctors. Members of Congress pick and choose plans in such a market. The rest of America should also have that right.
Feulner concludes: “These are some of our remedies to our nation’s health care system. There are other free market ideas that also warrant consideration. We call on the President and Congress to widen the conversation. Let the debate truly begin.”