EDITORIAL: Better ways to reform health care

For a politician who promised to be post-partisan and unifying, President Obama is proving to be awfully ideological and divisive. His speech on Monday at an AFL-CIO picnic in Cincinnati showed that he enters Wednesday’s national address on health care in full attack-dog mode. That approach is not likely to bring Americans together to support his unpopular policies.

As so often has been the case, Mr. Obama portrayed these United States as hopelessly misguided until he graced the Oval Office with his presence. “Wealth was valued over work, selfishness over sacrifice, greed over responsibility,” he said. Notice how Mr. Obama never seems content with criticizing the choices of others but instead attacks their motives and character.

Again, he tried to make insurance companies into boogeymen, accusing them of greedily “raking in the profits” — “inflated profits” — even though the 3 percent average profit margin of insurance companies in recent years is one of the lowest margins of any major industry in the country.

The president accused “special interests” of “doing what they always do, which is just try to scare the heck out of people” — and then he proceeded to try to scare the heck out of people. The future without his health-system reforms, he said, would mean more of “denying or dropping coverage when you get sick” and “premiums continuing to skyrocket three times faster than your wages … more families pushed into bankruptcy, more businesses cutting more jobs, more Americans losing health insurance … [and] more Americans dying every day just because they don’t have health insurance.”

Again, Mr. Obama accused his adversaries of spreading “all the lies,” even though numerous centrist and even left-leaning fact checkers have said it is the president himself who has been misleading about whether the proposed reforms would provide public money for abortions or lead to rationing of health care.

Mr. Obama also repeated the biggest disinformation point of all, which is that those who disagree with his approach “don’t have” any answers or solutions. “Their answer is to do nothing. Their answer is to do nothing,” he insisted twice, which simply is not true. Almost nobody suggests that we “do nothing.” Again and again, conservatives have offered multiple proposals for health care reform only to have Mr. Obama deliberately ignore or ridicule them.

For just a small sampling of the competing proposals that Mr. Obama labels as “nothing,” consider these: 1) Various lawsuit reforms to keep down medical malpractice premiums, whose costs are passed on to consumers. 2) Allowing health insurance to be bought and sold across state lines. 3) Allowing the tax break for health insurance to be claimed by individuals as well as by businesses. 4) Increased use of health savings accounts. 5) Creation of “health stamps” for low-income people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for tax credits. 6) Allowing doctors who provide pro bono care to treat the value of their time spent doing so as a charitable deduction from their income taxes. 7) Allowing states to band together in regional insurance-pooling arrangements. 8) Various measures to make it easier for patients to figure out the costs of various services and doctors’ fees so they can comparison-shop.

There are many alternative ideas for health care reform. Many of these proposals offer more real reform than any of the big-government concoctions Mr. Obama is trying to prescribe.

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