The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn accuses Americans for Prosperity (AFP) of “lies” for running an ad that claims “Washington wants to bring Canadian-style healthcare to the U.S.”
AFP’s ad is more defensible than Cohn’s criticisms of it.
Cohn elides the question of whether Shana Holmes (the woman featured in the ad) was almost killed by Canada’s Medicare system. For a supporter of single-payer like Cohn, that is tantamount to admitting that, yeah, socialized medicine sometimes kills people.
Cohn argues that the ad is unfair because Canada has many advantages over the U.S. health care sector. That may be true, but the ad doesn’t appear to defend American health care. It merely says, “government should never come in between your family and your doctor” and “Don’t give up your rights.” That’s not pro-American health care or anti-reform. It’s just anti- the type of reform that Cohn wants. And it points to one area where our semi-socialized U.S. health care sector appears to be superior to Canada’s: quicker access to intensive treatments. Sometimes, that saves lives. In fact, AFP could go farther and say that the United States has another edge over Canada, in that we develop nearly all of the best new medical technologies. In fact, our medical technologies save Canadian lives, but Canada’s health care system (and its supporters) steal the credit.
Yet “the real lie,” Cohn claims, is that the ad suggests that “Washington” wants to impose a Canadian-style system on the United States. Cohn calls that claim “demonstrably false.” But consider:
- President Obama has said he would prefer single-payer and has hinted that he would like to make incremental changes in that direction.
- Many people who support a new public plan (e.g., Paul Krugman) do so because they believe it will lead to single-payer.
- Massachusetts, which has already implemented most of the reforms that Obama and congressional Democrats are considering, is now contemplating a large leap toward Canadian-style health care by imposing capitation on its entire health care sector.
- Government rationing becomes increasingly likely as government revenues fail to keep pace with the cost of government’s health care promises. (See again, Massachusetts.)
- The Left wants government to ration care. That’s the point of the comparative-effectiveness research funding. That draft House Appropriations Committee report committed a classic Washington gaffe when it said that certain treatments “would no longer be prescribed,” because it was admitting the truth.
Cohn is correct that no politician of influence is saying she wants to impose a Canadian-style system on the United States. But I prefer to pay attention to what they’re doing.
AFP: 1. Cohn: 0.
The New York Times reports that key congressional Democrats have agreed on the basic provisions for a health care reform bill. And while many details remain to be negotiated, the broad outline provides a dog's breakfast of bad ideas that will lead to higher taxes, fewer choices, and poorer quality care.
Among the items that are expected to be included in the final bill:
- An Individual Mandate. Every American will be required to buy an insurance policy that meets certain government requirements. Even individuals who are currently insured -- and happy with their insurance -- will have to switch to insurance that meets the government's definition of acceptable insurance, even if that insurance is more expensive or contains benefits that they do not want or need. Get ready for the lobbying frenzy as every special interest group in Washington, both providers and disease constituencies, demand to be included.
- An Employer Mandate. At a time of rising unemployment, the government will raise the cost of hiring workers by requiring all employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee (tax) to subsidize government coverage.
- A Government-Run Plan, competing with private insurance. Because such a plan is subsidized by taxpayers, it will have an unfair advantage, allowing it to squeeze out private insurance. In addition, because government insurance plans traditionally under-reimburse providers, such costs are shifted to private insurance plans, driving up their premiums and making them even less competitive. The actuarial firm Lewin Associates estimates that, depending on how premiums, benefits, reimbursement rates, and subsidies were structured, as many as 118.5 million would shift from private to public coverage. That would mean a nearly 60 percent reduction in the number of Americans with private insurance. It is unlikely that any significant private insurance market could continue to exist under such circumstances, putting us on the road to a single-payer system.
- Massive New Subsidies. This includes not just subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance, but expansions of government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
- Government Playing Doctor. Democrats agree that one goal of their reform plan is to push for "less use of aggressive treatments that raise costs but do not result in better outcomes." While no mechanism has yet been spelled out, it seems likely that the plan will use government-sponsored comparative effectiveness research to impose cost-effectiveness guidelines on medical care, initially in government programs, but eventually extending such restrictions to private insurance.
Given the problems facing our health care system-high costs, uneven quality, millions of Americans without health insurance--it seems that things couldn't get any worse. But a bill based on these ideas, will almost certainly make things much, much worse.
Or maybe it's all just a massive April Fool's joke.
Through his press secretary Robert Gibbs, president Obama has declared that he will reverse congressional Democrats' phase-out of the DC Opportunity Scholarships program. The scholarships make private schooling affordable for 1,700 poor DC children, most of whom would be forced back into the District's broken public school system if it were to end.
However -- yes, there's always a however -- there's every indication that president Obama will do the minimum necessary to keep the program going at its current size, and will not help to expand it.
This is nevertheless a crucial milestone. There is finally a major national Democratic leader who is beginning to catch up to his state-level peers. Democrats all around the country have been supporting and signing small education tax credit programs because they realize that these programs are win-win: good for their constituents and good for their long-term political futures.
The old guard of the Democratic party -- typified by congressional leaders -- still imagines that school choice is bad for them. They still think that they can roll back time to a period when the public school monopoly was inviolate. That time has passed. Real educational freedom is spreading -- slowly -- around the country. That is not going to stop.
The last Democrats to be found jamming their fingers into the dike, hoping to stop the flight to educational freedom, will find their political careers swept away when that dike finally crumbles.