Thursday, January 14, 2010

Like a parched man crawling on hands and knees through the sandy desert, Democrats are beginning to hallucinate - not about an oasis, but about throngs of supporters who will enthusiastically turn out to vote in the 2010 elections if only they pass health care reform.

Outgoing Virginia Gov. and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine captured this image best when he said that passing a health care reform bill would “create a real tail wind” for Democrats.

White House political adviser David Axelrod told a reporter this week that one of the best things Democrats can do to get a boost in the midterm elections is to “finish this health care bill successfully … then we have to go out and sell it.” He goes on to say, “I think we can run on this. I think there is so much in here that has value to every American, and mostly to people who have insurance.”

Mr. Axelrod and Mr. Kaine might do well to look back 15 years, to then-President Bill Clinton. Twice in two days, Mr. Clinton said much the same thing. First, he said, “a strong position on health care would help Democrats in the November elections.” Then, he urged a crowd in Wisconsin, “persuade your members of Congress, without regard to party, they can do this and get re-elected.” Actual events were somewhat different than promised.

Flash forward to 2010, and “it’s deja vu all over again.” Despite the outpouring of public sentiment in August, when protests against government-run health care erupted, it was business as usual on Capitol Hill when the Democrats returned from their home districts.

Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans oppose the current health care bill, and Democrats don’t seem to care, taking refuge by saying the opposite - that poll after poll shows Americans want health care reform.

The problem, of course, is that Americans don’t want the health care reform Democrats are insisting on passing. What they do want is lower costs, more choice and higher quality care. Things the Democrats effort won’t do.

Similar policies to the Senate bill were passed in Massachusetts in 2006, and the residents of that state pay the highest insurance premiums in the nation. Exploding health care costs mean the state can’t even pay hospitals enough to cover the care given to patients. Waiting lists are growing, particularly in Boston, where some patients have to wait up to a year for routine visits to specialists.

All of these “reforms” in Massachusetts were passed just to extend health coverage to a tiny fraction of the state population, but even former supporters are admitting that the exploding costs of Massachusetts’ health care reform is a serious concern. According to the most recent Rasmussen poll, about 36 percent of the state’s residents view reform as a failure, compared with just 31 percent who don’t. Another 31 percent say their health care costs have gone up, versus just 20 percent who say the opposite. Every aspect of Massachusetts’ reform has been an unmitigated disaster for families in that state.

The Senate health “reform” bill passed on Christmas Eve is very similar to the reform laws in Massachusetts, where an average family of four pays more than $13,000 in premiums - the highest in the nation, and an increase of 40 percent since 2003, higher than the national average.

Now all the talk out of Massachusetts is about government-imposed “cost controls.” That means major cutbacks in services and payments to providers, which in turn means rationing, longer waits for care and denial of certain medications - all of the lowlights of universal health care nightmares manifested in places such as Britain and Canada.

It is inconceivable that American voters would suddenly leap for joy upon the passage of a bill that doesn’t lower costs but instead raises them, doesn’t increase choice or competition but instead puts government more firmly in control, and will forever alter the American health care system for the worse, especially now, when economic security has been shaken. Public support for this effort simply does not exist, and neither can such support be manufactured upon passage of a bill that would sic the IRS on taxpayers for not buying health insurance, would jack up the price of insurance premiums paid by American families and would create dozens of government bureaucracies with power over personal health care decisions.

A much more likely explanation for Mr. Kaine’s comments and the actions of Democrats on Capitol Hill is that they are simply so invested in passing something - anything - that they can call health care “reform” that they have no choice but to project optimism in the face of a potentially historic political disaster.

Rick Scott is the chairman of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights and a health care entrepreneur who started a chain of urgent care centers in Florida.

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