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EDITORIAL: Hiding the true cost of Obamacare

- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

President Obama keeps saying America needs the Democrats' health care bill to reduce costs. In reality, the government takeover of health care will raise costs and cause a large number of people to lose their health insurance.

"Well, if [the health care bill] doesn't pass, I'm more concerned about what it does to families out there who right now are getting crushed by rising health care costs and small businesses who were having to make a decision, 'Do I hire or do I fix health care?' " Mr. Obama claimed to Fox News on Wednesday.

Saying his bill will reduce costs doesn't make it true. Take the legislation's huge $500 billion cuts in Medicare. The government already reimburses hospitals and doctors less than their costs. Further cuts mean even more cost shifting to privately insured patients to cover deeper Medicare losses. Private insurance won't cover all of these exorbitant losses, which will force many doctors and hospitals out of business.

This week, the New England Journal of Medicine released a survey of doctors showing that 46.3 percent of "primary care physicians (family medicine and internal medicine) feel that the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine." Not only will doctors leave medicine, but "27 percent [of physicians] would recommend medicine as a career but not if health reform passes." The survey is merely suggestive, but if the real reduction in the number of doctors is even 5 percent or 10 percent, medical costs will rise significantly. A lower supply of doctors amid rising demand for care means higher medical prices.

Another example is the ban on insurance companies charging different premiums based on pre-existing health conditions. Imagine what would happen if motorists could buy auto insurance after an accident and were allowed to drop it once a car was fixed. People would wait until they were in an accident to buy insurance, and insurance premiums would skyrocket. The same will happen if insurance companies can't charge higher premiums for sick people.

Even the few purported cost-reducing measures in the Senate bill are being gutted by the president's proposal. The reconciliation bill delays a tax on high-quality insurance, dubbed Cadillac plans. The idea was if the cost of insurance was raised, fewer people would want such extensive medical coverage and thus would not seek medical care as often. Reduced demand therefore would reduce the price of medical care. But after striking a deal with unions, Mr. Obama decided to delay the tax for eight years, until he's out of office.

The Democrats' plan will destroy American health care. Obamacare will dramatically raise the cost of medical care, forcing many Americans to drop their insurance. Responsible members of Congress have to vote this down.