- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 21, 2010

As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve spent years witnessing the often slow and painful process of healing. I’ve watched patients struggle to get well, facing down personal, professional and financial challenges while fighting to recover their health.

It’s too bad healing in the real world isn’t as simple as healing in the political world - where it appears that a simple shift in the wind of public opinion and a few million dollars in campaign donations mends everything.

That’s the lesson I took away after reading news that Big Insurance lobbyists are working - and spending - feverishly to mend fences with congressional Republicans only six months after helping President Obama and Democrats ram their massive health insurance law down America’s throat.

It seems the insurance companies and their lobbyists mortally fear not only the multistate lawsuit against Obamacare’s mandate - cleared to move ahead by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson on Oct. 14 - but what’s likely to come on Election Day: a tectonic shift in the control of Congress as Republicans threaten to overwhelm Democratic control of both houses. When you factor in the Obamacare’s abysmal poll numbers (Rasmussen reported this week that 55 percent of Americans favor repeal), you begin to understand the depth of desperation at play.

As Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, told the Hill, “A lot of the health care groups saw dollar signs and they went with them. Well, the people don’t like it.” Nor should the people like it, since the new health care law sacrificed real reforms that would lower costs, increase access and encourage innovation in favor of handing over control of health care decision-making to bureaucrats, politicians and their lobbyist friends.

Of course, Big Insurance would love to preserve the Obamacare mandate. After all, what industry wouldn’t love a law that forces Americans to buy its product or face fines at the hands of the Internal Revenue Service? Of course, Big Hospitals want new payment systems where all the money to all providers must flow through them. Of course, AARP and big corporations want millions of new unwilling and perhaps unwitting customers as government reduces choices for American families. Unfortunately for them - but fortunately for everyone else - the election results and the next Congress will quite possibly render that mandate a pipe dream.

What then, you ask? Probably not sensible health care reform that focuses on putting patients first, at least if the lobbyists have their way. As one anonymous lobbyist (is there any other kind?) told the Hill:

“You have this repeal-and-replace moniker on health care reform. But when you’re done with that layer of the onion, that’s just the outside peel that falls away easily and you never really think about using it in your soup. The other pieces of the onion are … What is it that you guys are focused on? What is it that you all really care about? What are you going to do that might impact coverage? Trying to get our hands around that is what we like to do so that we can figure out where we have alignment on issues.”

That level of arrogance is obscene and makes a mockery of the will of the American people. It embodies everything that is wrong with Washington today and the degree to which the ruling class sees itself above the rest of us.

The Health Care Freedom Act movement is a potent remedy to this condition. Versions have passed already in six states and are on the ballot this November in Arizona as Proposition 106, Colorado as Amendment 63 and Oklahoma as State Question 756. With the exception of Arizona, where the movement began with my simple idea - health care decisions belong to patients and families, not politicians - not a single lobbying dollar has been spent around the country to get the measures passed.

What lobbyists and politicians dismiss in back rooms and on the floor of Congress - making sure patients have a seat at the table when it comes to health care reform - they will be forced to deal with by a simple majority of voters.

Only then can we heal a system of health care that badly needs to staunch its bleeding.

Dr. Eric Novack is chairman of the U.S. Health Freedom Coalition and chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom. He is the author of Prop 106, the Arizona Health Care Freedom Act.

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