- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas gift-giving always begins with a wish list. This year, conservatives yearning to halt the government-driven health care provisions of Obamacare are making their list - and hoping the new GOP majority won’t hesitate to check it twice.

The last time I checked in with Conservative Santa at the North Pole, the top requests were to defund these seven Obamacare provisions:

1. The Preventive Services Task Force:This unelected panel of academics has been empowered as the body to govern mandatory preventive services that insurance plans must offer with no cost-sharing with patients. What does that mean? Just one example: If you’re a healthy 29-year-old man, your plan is mandated to offer “one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm by ultrasonography in men aged 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.” Do you know how unlikely it is for you to remain covered by this same plan for almost 40 years? But your plan has to include it at “no charge,” which in the real world means higher premiums or benefit reductions elsewhere.

2. The Independent Payment Advisory Board: This group of unelected bureaucrats has one task: Cap the spending of Medicare by cutting payments to providers. This board can’t reduce cost or use by introducing a co-pay or any cost-sharing mechanism. In essence, Congress no longer has to worry with the Sustainable Growth Rate formula; unelected bureaucrats will do the job, protecting politicians. How’s that for accountability?

3. Grant programs for states to “monitor premium increases”:The secretary of health and human services (HHS) “in conjunction with the States, shall establish a process for the annual review … of unreasonable increases in premiums for health insurance coverage.” First, who defines “unreasonable” and, second, does government-imposed price controls sound like a free-market solution or a socialistic tool?

4. Grant program to establish state exchanges: This funding helps states establish exchanges that are to implement the minimum requirements mandated by HHS for insurance plans. Take note: Free-market conservatives would advocate exchanges for purchasing power and choice of benefits; big-government types have created exchanges to serve as the long arm of the federal government in your state. I guess the 10th Amendment got lost in that policy discussion.

5. Multistate health plans offered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM): Say hello to more government-run insurance plans that are supposed to “fairly compete” with private-sector plans but leave taxpayers holding the bag for losses. With the threat of the HHS secretary certifying exchanges that offer only these OPM plans, you had better believe the public option may be back in business before you know it.

6. Minority-only programs: The Office of Minority Health at HHS is codified, with its primary responsibility being to improve health and health care outcomes for racial and ethnic minority communities by developing or advancing policies, programs and practices that address health, social, economic, environmental and other factors that impact health. Leave it to politicians to categorize diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc., according to race.

7. Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women: This new board just created 15 new positions for “special government employees” who will “develop initiatives to increase knowledge of breast health and breast cancer” and “assist [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] in developing evidence-based approaches.” The redundancy of the Susan G. Komen foundation and the CDC, among many other agencies, is a waste of resources that need to go to research, not more bureaucracies. Funding intentions rather than results is our problem.

Like anxious children awaiting their presents, we have one looming question: whether we’ll wake up on Christmas morning to lumps of coal in our stockings or a promise from the Republican Congress to turn this wish list into reality.

For the sake our freedoms, prosperity and health, we’re hoping Republicans come through with the presents instead of the coal.

Alex Cortes is chairman of the Restore the Dream Foundation, and Robin Smith is former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.