February 11, 2010 12:42PM

Fisking Gingrich & Goodman on Health Care Reform

I much prefer the ideas of Newt Gingrich and John Goodman to those of President Obama.  But their recent oped in the Wall Street Journal shows why conservatives and Republicans still have a ways to go if they want to stop getting their clocks cleaned on health care.  Here's a fisk of the objectionable passages:

  • "The current taxation of health insurance...giv[es] lavish subsidies..." There ain't no such thing as a "tax subsidy."  Or a "tax expenditure."  If that's what you call it when a tax break reduces federal revenue, don't be surprised when politicians try to "reclaim" that "expenditure" (read: increase taxes) and spend it someplace else.
  • "Many health economists conclude that tax relief for health insurance should be a fixed-dollar amount..." Many economists also conclude that Medicare's administrative costs are low, but that doesn't make it true, nor does it mean Medicare is a good idea.  If conservatives actually believe in limited government and they want to improve health care, they should advocate policies that will help eliminate tax breaks for health care.   Targeted tax "breaks" are merely another example of destructive government meddling.
  • "Employers should be encouraged to provide employees..." Nyet, comrades.  That's not the government's job.  Government should stop encouraging anyone to do anything in health care, unless it's encouraging people to keep their promises (read: enforcing contracts) or encouraging producers not to hurt consumers (read: tort liability).
  • "A good model for self-management is the Cash and Counseling program for the homebound disabled under Medicaid." Sure it is -- if you want to increase dependence on government.
  • "We should also encourage health plans to specialize...For example, special-needs plans in Medicare Advantage actively compete to enroll and cover the sickest Medicare beneficiaries." Re encouragement, I refer my right honourable friends to the answer I gave some moments ago.  And do we really want to hold up Medicare Advantage -- which is even more government-heavy than the Democrats' health insurance exchanges -- as a model for reform?
  • "Don't cut Medicare." Really?  And you'd prefer dealing with Medicare's $80 trillion unfunded liability...how?
  • "A viable bridge to Medicare can be built by allowing employers to obtain individually owned insurance for their retirees at group rates." A Bridge To Medicare.  Please let that be the slogan for Gingrich's presidential primary campaign.  Of course, that bridge would require more regulation.
  • "Eliminate junk lawsuits. Last year the president pledged to consider civil justice reform. We do not need to study or test medical malpractice any longer." For all their talk about limited government and the rule of law, conservatives and Republicans just can't seem to stop advocating unconstitutional federal limits on med mal liability. Maybe they've convinced themselves that all doctors are angels and all trial lawyers are demons.
  • "We can help prevent [health care fraud] by using responsible approaches such as enhanced coordination of benefits, third-party liability verification, and electronic payment." We will prevent health care fraud when we get the government out of health care -- not before.  For a good take on the silliness of government fraud-prevention efforts, see David Hyman's Medicare Meets Mephistopheles.

Whew, this list is longer than I thought it would be.  Just two more:

  • "Make medical breakthroughs accessible to patients...by cutting red tape before and during review by the Food and Drug Administration." The FDA is constitutionally incapable of striking the right balance between speed and safety.  It must be eliminated. Getting other reforms right first -- reforming the tax code, reforming Medicare, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines -- will make eliminating the FDA easier.
  • "The solutions presented here can be the foundation for a patient-centered system." The authors must have in mind a different oped than the one I read.

To emphasize, there's a lot that Gingrich & Goodman get right.  But if conservatives and Republicans wonder why government already controls so much of America's health care sector, and why the Left is so close to having government takeover the rest, they might consider some of their own misguided ideas about health care reform.