The Right Prescription

Switching to the Tune of the Times

Key critics of HillaryCare are now on board the ObamaCare Express. There's only one way to stop them.

By 4.6.09

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It is true that what you see depends upon where you sit. But moving from one seat to another may as easily distort your perception of reality as clarify it.

When Frank Keating was the governor of Oklahoma, he vigorously opposed the federal death tax, which is incredibly destructive of family farms and family businesses. However, once he became head of the American Council of Life Insurers, the members of which thrive and flourish on the chaos created by the federal tax on estates and gifts, he became a strong supporter of the death tax.

Now, the creator of the famous Harry and Louise ads, Chip Kahn -- the guy who, when he represented big health insurance companies back in the 1990s, single-handedly did the most to defeat Hillary Clinton's scheme to nationalize health care and give it to the government to run -- now that he lobbies for hospitals, which have supported nationalized health care for many years, he has come out in support of President Obama's plans to, you guessed it, nationalize health care and give it to the government to run.

But clearly there is more going on with Kahn's flip-flop than simply moving his backside from a perch in the health-insurance industry to a seat atop the hospital industry. Big insurance companies, which financed the torpedoing of HillaryCare, are themselves on board the ObamaCare Express this time around. Not only have some of the players switched seats, and hence what they see, there has been a tectonic shift in the position of the seats themselves so even those who remain in the same seats see the world differently when it comes to health-care reform.

In much the same way the government created the financial crisis by debauching the currency and destructively intervening into financial, housing and other markets, government has brought on the health-care crisis through years of ill-considered intrusion and interventions into the health-care marketplace. Now that government policies have brought the American health-care system to the breaking point, politicians are clamoring for change in the name of "The People" although there is good evidence "The People" are fearful and skeptical of any government-run solution.

According to a March 19, 2009 CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, most Americans like their health-care coverage. More than eight in 10 Americans questioned in the survey said they're satisfied with the quality of health care they receive. And, nearly three out of four said they are happy with their overall health-care coverage.

Politicians, though, don't listen to "The People," they pander to organized interests who in turn clamor to be in the room so they can be in the deal when government expropriates health care. Just as the government is compounding the problems it created originally in financial markets by layering on more ill-conceived government policies, so to will President Obama and Big Health together break the American health-care system altogether if they are allowed to nationalize health care and turn it over to the government and its big-business cronies to run. Heaven save us from another "public-private" partnership, the monstrosity of the Republican Party now used by liberal Democrats as the means of bringing fascism to America.

Organized interests -- from liberal advocacy groups to big business associations -- see a huge political risk in getting in front of the ObamaCare Express, which they fear cannot be derailed before it runs them over. Moreover, they perceive a huge business opportunity if they climb aboard the ObamaCare Express Club Car and help design the new system. Even if big health-care firms are forced to accept price controls and health-care rationing, which they almost certainly will under ObamaCare, they calculate a two-fold advantage if they can help craft the government takeover of the industry.

First, Big Health sees a chance to cartelize its respective sectors of the industry, driving out its smaller competitors and gaining government subsidies and guarantees, much as big financial companies are doing in the wake of the government-created financial crisis. Second, with government almost certainly going to conscript everyone into the government-run system through an individual mandate of some sort, big health-care firms calculate they can more than make up in volume what they may have to forfeit when they lose the right to charge a market-determined price -- a complete delusion and misconception when rationing kicks in to hold down costs, but a big-business fantasy nonetheless.

When Chip Kahn lobbied for big health insurance companies in the 1990s, Big Health financed the opposition to government-run health care. Today, big insurance companies are stoking the boilers of the ObamaCare Express.

If the politicians are to be prevented from nationalizing health care and giving it to the government to run, a grass-roots rebellion will be required to tear up the tracks and sidetrack the ObamaCare Express. American still has the best system of medical care in the world. What is failing is the perversely regulated public/private business model through which it is delivered. In conspiring to "fix" the failed business model with a grandiose government scheme, Big Gov and Big Health are getting ready to wreck the best system of medical care in the world.

There is no magic bullet to fix the health-care business model, and trying to find one will enslave doctors and kill patients. What is required is eliminating the many government policies that corrupt and despoil the system. Indeed, the best we could do, and the best we could hope for, is a little old fashioned tinkering that preserves what's best about America's health-care system, expands patient choice to improve upon its best elements and addresses the real problems, which doesn't require the fascist schemes Big Gov and Big Health have in mind.

But before any of this is possible, it is first necessary to derail the ObamaCare Express.

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About the Author
Lawrence A. Hunter is president of the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity.