On a day when ABC News has turned over its programing to the White House so that President Obama can promote his health care agenda, Americans for Tax Reform gathered together a group on Capitol Hill to offer a competing, market-based vision for health care reform.
Sen. Jim DeMint was there to tout his health care proposal along with Rep. Tom Price.
Price, a former physician in Atlanta, said that, "If the fourth estate continues to be in the tank (for the Obama administration, it would endanger the future of the nation." Price outlined three "death knells" for the health care system: a government plan that would crowd out private insurance, coverage mandates, and "ceding quality to the federal government. He said patients need to make their own health care decisions and be able to choose plans that they own and control.
"We don't need an expansion of government," DeMint said, and he outlined his plan for health care that would maintain the employer-based insurance system, give vouchers to individuals that would replicate the tax advantages enjoyed by those who obtain coverage through their employers, and allow people to purchase insurance across state lines.
DeMint said his plan would be deficit-neutral because it would be financed by terminating the $700 billion TARP program. If the program isn't terminated, he said, it would just be used as a "slush fund" for the Treasury Department. However, when I asked DeMint how the plan would be paid for once the TARP money runs out, he replied, "We just have to see where we're going." He insisted that his reforms would bring down health care costs, and in any event would be less than the trillions that Obama's proposals would cost.
"We can win this if we engage the American people," DeMint said of the health care battle. "They are not stupid."
The event also featured a panel of activists, policy experts, and a Canadian woman who shared her horror story with their government-run health care system.
Merrill Matthews, the director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, took aim at the government option. He argued that Medicare and Medicaid are rampant with fraud and abuse and use their market share to impose price controls on doctors and hospitals, which providers then recoup by jacking up prices on individuals and private insurers. He noted that though proponents of government health care like to point to the low administrative costs of Medicare, their estimates leave out costs such as staff salaries, building rent ,and insurance -- alll of which show up elsewhere in the federal budget. Nor do the estimates of administrative costs include fraud and abuse. The creation of any new government plan, Matthews said, would ding taxpayers for the start up costs, and would continue to change the rules on the private sector so that it could not compete.
Today, Preident Obama officially said he changed his mind and now supports the inclusion of an individual mandate requiring people to purchase health insurance. But Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices, explained that mandates have proven ineffective. For instance, even though we have mandates for car insurance, roughly 15 percent of car owners remain non-compliant.
The room also heard from Shona Holmes, a Canadian who was suffering from vision loss and had to come to America to get treated because she was put on a several month waiting list to see a specialist in her home country, even though she risked losing her vision if she was not treated in four to six weeks.
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