The legacy news media are once again doting on the porcine Affordable Care Act with an extravagance not lavished on a pig since P.G. Wodehouse created the immortal Empress of Blandings. If you are unfamiliar with the latter, she was a gigantic Berkshire sow who was treated by her aristocratic owner with a level of reverence that caused his friends and family to question his grip on reality. Likewise, after an all-too-brief flirtation with fact-based journalism inspired by the bungled rollout of Healthcare.gov, mainstream reporters have reverted to coverage of Obamacare that suggests they, too, may be delusional.
The Health Care Spectator
“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
— President Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981
It’s the government, stupid. Rush Limbaugh is right. The VA scandal is a preview of Obamacare. As Mediaite wrote up his take the other day:
Limbaugh: VA Deaths Scandal a Preview of What Obamacare Will Be Like
Rush Limbaugh took on the VA deaths scandal on Monday, touting this as the home of the “death panels” the right had been speaking of years ago. And because that was a talking point against Obamacare, Limbaugh argued that what happened to veterans waiting for benefits at the VA is a “microcosm” of what will happen once Obamacare is fully implemented.
A surgeon declared war against health care’s central planners recently in the Wall Street Journal.
“So when do we say damn the mandates and requirements from bureaucrats who are not in the healing profession?” asked Dr. Daniel F. Craviotto Jr., an orthopedic surgeon, in “A Doctor’s Declaration of Independence.”
“I acknowledge that there is a problem with the rising cost of health care, but there is also a problem when the individual physician in the trenches does not have a voice in the debate and is being told what to do and how to do it.”
My doctor said the same thing two decades ago when Hillary Clinton was behind closed doors at the White House developing a Rube Goldberg contraption that was supposed to restructure a seventh of the nation’s economy by transferring the decision-making in medicine to thousands of bureaucrats in hundreds of interconnecting committees — a bloated Leviathan in which a patient had a good shot at expiring before his paperwork made it through all the hoops.
There’s a scene in P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves where Bertie Wooster receives a telegram from his fearsome Aunt Dahlia that reads: “Come at once.” Bertie is puzzled. He reflects and agonizes and sends several follow-up telegrams requesting more lucid instruction. Finally he shows the cable to his perceptive manservant Jeeves and asks him to translate.
“I think Mrs. Travers wants you to come at once, sir,” Jeeves says.
Sometimes it seems like the liberal base of the Democratic Party has a similar problem. They’ve been saying for decades: “We want Medicare for all.” Senior Democrats furrow their brows and ruminate, they fret about public opinion and blue dogs, they devise independent payment advisory boards and state-run insurance exchanges. Meanwhile the activists are rolling their eyes. “No, Medicare for all. It’s not that hard…”
The headlines are everywhere. General Motors is responsible for thirteen deaths. Harry Reid’s Senate and John Boehner’s House have each held a hearing. Some 230,000 pages of documents have been turned over by the company, Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, is railing about a GM “culture of cover-up.” The job of the GM CEO, Mary Barra, is on the line, and she is summoned to those televised hearings to explain and apologize. The families of the victims are giving well-attended press conferences.
Yesterday the Obama Administration boasted that six million people had signed up for Obamacare.
There was not a word about Frank Alfisi.
Frank Alfisi was killed by Obamacare.
His daughter, Amy DiFrancesca, is furious. And yes, she quite specifically blames the President of the United States for her father’s death. As did the doctor who told Amy: “You can thank Mr. Obama for this.”
Before we get to the specifics of how Frank Alfisi died, let’s begin with the who of this story. Mr. Alfisi was not a statistic. He wasn’t a guinea pig or a lab rat. Frank Alfisi was a real person. A son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather. So let’s start here by getting to know something about Amy’s Dad Frank.
"This feels like a punishment," Julie Birch says, sitting down in her New Mexico home after bandaging her twelve-year-old’s bleeding leg. "The ones doing the right thing got penalized."
Birch is the mother of two athletic sons and the wife of a self-employed restaurant designer and builder. As a stay-at-home mother, the health of her family is her first priority – so health insurance was a given. Birch used to pay a $344 premium with a $1,500 deductible for her family of four’s policy.
That is, before Obamacare.
President Obama promised hundreds of typical middle-class Americans like Birch that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t bar them from seeing their doctors or kick them off their insurance plans. They were already insured, they created jobs, and worked hard to live the American dream. This was supposed to help "the least of these" without harming "the better offs."
Paul Krugman keeps daring the conservative right to find a real Obamacare victim story – one that couldn’t be debunked by a little extra sleuthing. Well, Paul, here are three.
And so with ukuleles and autoharps, and cheers and groans, Americans usher Obamacare onto the public stage, knowing -- with hope, with disgust, with fear, with acceptance -- that the thing is here to stay, in the way all government programs, once enacted, hang around like a deadbeat brother-in-law: chain-smoking, impossible to get rid of.
Foes and friends of Obamacare understand this truth: You never get rid of a government program. Did Ronald Reagan, despite vows and expectations, ever get rid of the promiscuous and worthless Department of Education? Or the Department of Energy? Hardly. In like-manner, Obamacare will endure. The government already claims 1.1 million sign-ups. It is below original expectations; each one nevertheless represents an aspiration not even a President Cruz would find possible to repudiate. And more sign-ups are to come.
The late, great Milton Friedman used to say, there's no such thing as a free lunch. The ancient Romans had another pointed saying: "Quod erat demonstrandum," meaning, roughly, remember now what I told you, doofus?
To put it another way, is there room for surprise in the report that high deductibles may contribute to making Obamacare something less than the divine blessing its authors meant it to be? For all the comforting promises out of D.C., relayed to the general public with profound sweetness, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays. To believe otherwise is a) to believe money grows on trees, or b) not to care, so long as someone else picks up the check.
Obamacare's underlying philosophy is b ). In other words, a Democratic Congress, at the instigation of the White House, planned all along that good old Peter would pay Paul in the name of good old income redistribution.