- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jennifer Haberkorn reported last week on the progress of the Senate Democrats’ health care bill (“Senate Democrats release health plan,” Page 1, Thursday). It is dismaying to see how far this plan has come despite the falsehoods and half-truths that underpin much of its rationale.

They include the claim that there are 53 million Americans with no access to health care, that the uninsured are free riders whose medical care the rest of us have to pay for, that the plan actually holds down medical costs, and that those who like their current health insurance plans can keep them. All of these claims have been crucial to the Democrats’ arguments for their plan, and all are suspect.

Even if we accept that 53 million Americans are uninsured, these are people without health insurance, not without access to health care. In the United States, everyone who needs health care receives it. Health care for the indigent uninsured is paid for primarily through federal block grants to health care providers. To insinuate that the indigent are denied care is an insult to the taxpayers who provide tens of billions of dollars to fund this program.

The uninsured have been unjustly demonized as being free riders whose care is paid for by the insured. Those uninsured who cannot afford health insurance should not be categorized as free riders; rather, they are the ones who are to be subsidized.

On the other hand, those who can afford health insurance but choose to forgo it are charged two to three times the cost of the services they receive. Thus, the huge expenses of the one uninsured person who is hit by a bus are more than offset by the roughly 10 million others who subsidize the system through their required overpayment.

The Democrats’ plan relies on this very group to provide subsidies for the rest of us. In fact, it is the government programs - Medicare and Medicaid - that get a partial free ride, since they reimburse health care providers at less than cost, the remainder of which is paid for by private health insurance plans.

The claim that the Democrats’ plan reins in costs might be true, but only in terms of costs to the federal government. Their plan merely shifts more of the cost to the rest of us. The real problem for the economy - spiraling health care costs - remains unsolved, while overall health care costs are expected to continue to rise.

Finally, the assertion constantly intoned by President Obama - that if you are happy with your current health insurance you can keep it - is patently false. You can keep it only if it is deemed to be a “qualified” plan. Thus, if your current plan does not cover acupuncture or chiropractic care or cosmetic surgery, it might have to increase its coverage (and price) or be dropped altogether. So much for being able to keep your current insurance plan.



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