- - Thursday, October 21, 2010

We are witnessing the unmistakable collapse of an American presidency. While this may not yet be irreversible, it certainly was predictable and preventable. Chief among its causes has been the unbridled hubris that prompted this president to force Obamacare, the government takeover of the finest health care system in the world, against the clear will of “we the people” while turning his back on the free-market principles that once made us the most prosperous nation on earth.

A diminished president, even - or perhaps especially - if his fate is self-inflicted, is not good for America and should not be pleasing to any patriot regardless of his or her political leanings. It certainly is not pleasing to me, as this president is my cousin. But as a physician who took an inviolate oath to my patients, I am duty-bound to take this stand, particularly after watching Barack Obama make so many unkeepable Obamacare promises:

c Obamacare would reduce our deficit. We were to believe that millions of Americans would be added to the insurance rolls, that medical care would not suffer, and somehow, almost magically, costs would go down. We might as well promise it will never rain on weekends. Gravity caught up to this wishful thinking, and even the president’s own actuary now admits the overhaul will increase, not decrease, the deficit.

c Obamacare would allow you to keep your doctor and your current insurance. How can you keep your doctor if your doctor can’t keep his practice? The New England Journal of Medicine reported a survey that showed nearly half of America’s doctors are being forced to consider leaving their practice if Obamacare is implemented. And businesses already are finding they can no longer provide the same insurance policies to their employees that they had before Obamacare. Oklahoma’s Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, also a physician, estimates 90 million Americans will lose their current insurance policies because of the takeover. Millions of them will be forced into Medicaid and government exchanges.

c Obamacare would not jeopardize senior citizens’ care. The continued viability of Medicare Advantage is in serious jeopardy because of Mr. Obama’s Medicare cuts to pay for other parts of his health care overhaul. Companies already are announcing that they can no longer offer this very popular free-market Medicare reform. What’s more, fewer doctors are able to accept Medicare patients with the downward pressure on reimbursement levels, currently stuck at 1980s levels. Too often, physicians’ practices cannot survive being in business with the federal government. Already, 42 percent of doctors do not accept Medicare, and that number is increasing. Your shiny government-issued Medicare card is meaningless without doctors who will accept it.

c Obamacare would not ration health care. The president promised time and time again that he would not ration health care, and then promptly, under the cloak of a recess appointment, installed as the head of Medicare a man who would do it for him. Dr. Donald Berwick has announced unambiguously and with glee many times over that he will indeed ration America’s medical care (in addition to his own bizarre promises to redistribute your wealth) but he assures us that he’s our intellectual better, so it will be fine. He also declares he’s “romantic” about the British-government-run system and specifically admires how the British purposefully undersupply medical needs to alleviate “bottlenecks.” They’ve been alleviated all right. Britain’s colon cancer mortality rate, for example, is 40 percent higher than America’s; breast cancer 88 percent higher; prostate cancer a staggering 604 percent higher. All those unnecessary deaths unburden the system of patients seeking care. Some might call this rationing. Mr. Berwick, by the way, created his own health care golden parachute to assure that he and his wife would never be forced to submit themselves to the Medicare rules he creates. How convenient.

c Obamacare would not raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year.

“I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” New excise taxes on pharmaceuticals and medical products will, of course, by necessity be passed on to the patients who depend on these lifesaving medicines, pacemakers, MRI machines or even tongue depressors. Even more flagrant, there are new Obamacare taxes on everything from tampons to tanning salons, from gold to the sale of your home.

c Obamacare would create 4 million new jobs, 400,000 almost immediately. Not to be outdone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added this grand promise of her own. However, since the health care takeover was signed into law, no such jobs boom has occurred.

c Obamacare hearings would be held in public. Unlike the other promises, this one could have been kept and in fact may have prevented all these other catastrophic failures, but sadly, it was wantonly ignored by this president. Candidate Obama pledged eight times to hold health care hearings in public. Invite the C-SPAN cameras, he said, because open hearings would allow Americans to know who was on their side. Indeed it would have.

Mr. President - Barack - I offer to you the next best thing. Let’s you and I hold a public discussion on America’s health care for those C-SPAN cameras once and for all. I know your administration is desperately attempting the full-court press to promote your health care reform as it continues to suffer badly in all the polls, and you with it. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even said Americans need “re-education.” Let’s finally give Americans the honest and cordial discussion they deserve. You know that I have dedicated my life to serving patients, and nowhere will you find a person who will be more respectful to you. You also know I hold nothing against you personally. I understand you may feel, as a lawyer, that you’re a little out of your element discussing health care with a physician, so I urge you to bring Dr. Berwick along. America deserves to hear, at least one time, from the man who holds more health care power over them than even a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Until then, what should we do? We must defund, repeal and replace Obamacare before it defunds America, destroys the finest health care system in the world and replaces it with a European social-welfare government-run version.

Can we really repeal Obamacare? Let me be clear. Yes, we can.

First, in 2010, elect candidates who understand that health care freedom - like our other freedoms - saves lives. Elect candidates who pledge to first defund Obamacare immediately and then will vote for its repeal. Second, let’s convince this president that it’s in the nation’s best interest - and his own - to undo this unholy government takeover that bears his name. If we cannot, then in 2012, let’s find a president who will.

Dr. Milton R. Wolf is a board-certified, practicing diagnostic radiologist and cousin of President Obama’s. He is also a member of Docs4PatientCare.

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