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The day after never: Obamacare is the answer

JOHN REINIERS, More Than Words Staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:38 PM

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The Supreme Court is under no obligation to respond to the economic issues of the day. Its responsibility is only to the law. Congress is the branch of government which must make sensible laws which respond to economic conditions.

Congress, by law, has unlimited authority to tax and spend. This administration does both with relish, under the belief that an excess of both spells economic recovery. So congress will now tax those who refuse to buy insurance. Some experts believe the enforcement will be difficult. I would argue it will be a monster with unintended consequences and expense to taxpayers. (Thousands of new IRS agents chasing taxpayers.)

In his Journal in 1854, Ralph Waldo Emerson concluded, "When we have arrived at the question, the answer is already near." Absolutely correct. Legislators need to frame the precise issue or question before grinding out reams of legislative paper.

But what Emerson didn't say is very telling – that we'd actually have the answer at that point. He said the answer is "near." There are far more questions about life and society than there are absolute answers or solutions.

Since the origins of civilization, sages have postulated questions and answers resolving the timeless, nagging issues of war, sin, poverty, immorality, political corruption and a host of other intractable perplexities – but they never solve the problem. It never goes away. ("The poor will always be among us.")

We can only give reform our best shot, and then fine tune our seemingly perfect solution; or go back to the drawing board.

There isn't an American, English or Canadian opinion writer of hard news who hasn't offered solutions to the health care cost crisis. But remember Emerson's advice about first getting the question right. Most experts would agree – and this has been my position all along – that if there is an answer, the solution has to start with pulling costs out of our health care system. It will take a generation of thoughtful non-partisan, incremental work. Don't put the cart before the horse. And addressing cost issues will make for many unhappy special interests within the system.

The knee-jerk response of this administration is to first pass a law, and then have bureaucrats promulgate regulations on an ad hoc basis; driving up costs for everyone along the way before they come back for more funding.

There have been many examples of health care legislation in other countries and in some of our states. Every one of these countries has serious cost pressures. The U.S. as a percentage of GDP spends the most on health care. England and Canada warranted serious study by Democratic staffers to get some insight into their problems before they rolled out Obamacare.

Washington state passed their Clintonian inspired reforms in 1993 guaranteeing access to all who applied for private insurance, along with an individual mandate. History must have repeated itself, because this scheme was also rammed through the Washington legislature when the Democrats had total control of state government.

Before it could be totally implemented there was a voter revolt and Republicans took over the legislature. The individual mandate was repealed, but guaranteed access still remained. So premiums rose and citizens only purchased insurance when they needed it. One pregnant woman bought an individual policy a few months before she gave birth. She canceled her policy after she had her baby, and told the insurance company, "We will do business with you again when we are pregnant." Sure enough she did, and then canceled her policy again. She paid $1,807 in premium and collected $7,024.68 in payment of her medical bills.

Health insurers abandoned Washington, and by 1999, you couldn't buy a health insurance policy in Washington. The Insurance commissioner's office described the insurance market as entering a "death spiral." The President of America's Health Insurance Plans said that "Washington State's experience demonstrated that passing market reforms without requiring broad participation…does not work." One hospital official said, "A fundamental lesson in the process and that was not learned in the federal process is that health care is so big, so complex, so passionate, that it has to have bipartisan support."

Massachusetts pushed all the right buttons with its 2006 health care reform law, yet a recent independent study by the Beacon Hill Institute revealed that the law "is responsible for a dramatic increase in health care spending over the period since the law was enacted. The federal government – that means all those not living in Massachusetts – has spent billions more on Medicaid and Medicare.

The Institute found that "rather than bringing about a promised reduction in health care expenditures, the law caused expenditures to rise even faster than they would have in its absence." They predict Obamacare will fail for the same reason, that the "bill for this new Massachusetts entitlement was passed on to the federal government and Massachusetts insurance companies, hospitals and rate payers.

The question now is just who will pick up the tab for Obamacare." You simply can't expand coverage to a whole bunch of people at lower cost. "It contradicts basic economic theory." Because this will wreak havoc with the state budget, the legislature is considering strict provider price controls with expected passage expected in July 2012.

Wasn't the American public told Massachusetts Romney-care was a success – an admirable template for Obamacare?

One lesson can be learned from Obamacare, since it is so grandiose and over-reaching: All the great issues of the day – health care, education, energy, war or peace and a host of other challenges are a work in progress. They will be with us forever– continuing challenges with no final solution – if for no other reason than relentless advances in technology.

But socialists or big government statists mistakenly believe that big government solutions are the final solution. Hence, they believe Obamacare will resolve the issue of escalating health care costs once and for all.

That will be the day after never.

John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.

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