President Barack Obama has a prescription to fix what ails America's current healthcare system. He presented his essential ideas during ABC's Prescription for America TV special on June 24. When he was asked why government would need to get involved in healthcare reform when places in the private sector like the Mayo Clinic are already providing quality, affordable medical care, his answer tipped his hand.
"Unfortunately government, whether you like it or not, is going to already be involved," the president declared. "We pay for Medicare, we pay for Medicaid. There are a whole host of rules, both at the state and federal level, governing how health care is administered." Obama went on to say that he thinks serious healthcare reform will "figure out how do we take that involvement not to completely replace what we have but to build on what works and stop doing what doesn't work."
Portraying Government as the Answer
Therein President Obama revealed his core belief about the solution to America's healthcare problems: he believes that government's current involvement in our healthcare system is good, so more government involvement would only make things better. How so, we might ask? Are the Medicare and Medicaid programs good examples of what works? How about the medical care provided to veterans? How about government involvement in other sectors of the economy such as delivering the mail? Has government really demonstrated that it can do a better job than the private sector at providing healthcare or anything else?
Obama himself said during the Prescription for America special that "Medicare and Medicaid are the single biggest drivers of the federal deficit and the federal debt--by a huge margin. And at the pace at which they're going up ... Medicare and Medicaid are going to be broke and ... will consume all of the federal budget." According to the president, Medicare and Medicaid may win the competition with Social Security in the race to insolvency. So much for government intervention being part of what works.
Indeed, President Obama's plan to reform healthcare in America deserves to be put in one of those revealing hospital gowns and fully examined before Congress tries to fill his prescription. Does his push for bigger government really provide the answers he claims?
President's Prescription Deciphered
President Obama has repeated the same basic sound bites whenever he has discussed healthcare reform. He used just about all of them during his July 15 remarks in the Rose Garden while surrounded by members of the American Nurses Association. References to this speech, a July 1 town hall meeting in Annandale, Virginia, and the Prescription for America special encapsulate what Obama says he wants in healthcare reform legislation. But if the president does get the legislation he wants, would it deliver what he's promising?
* Reform should not increase the federal deficit: In Annandale, President Obama said that reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is already being spent on healthcare. Well, not quite. He claimed that "about two-thirds of the costs of the reforms that we are proposing will come from reallocating money that is already being spent in the health care system bur isn't being spent wisely." The other third "we're going to have to pay for by increased revenues." Of course, it the reforms were truly revenue neutral, then there would be no need to pay for a third of the costs of the reforms through increased revenues. Also, why does President Obama believe that the government can reallocate money "already being spent in the health care system" better than it's being allocated now? He says that the money is not being spent wisely--are we to believe that the government would spend the money more wisely?
Beyond that, the projections for the cost of reform are typically being limited to …