- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

As Democrats flee talk of Obamacare on the campaign trail and Republicans exploit weekly revelations about its defects and cost increases, the general public is left trying to decipher what just happened to their health care system, and more importantly, what it will mean to their health care in the future. What the public needs to know in all this - and what Obamacare opponents need to explain as well as exploit - is the larger narrative here, a narrative that suggests that failure was built into this legislation, that it was designed to cause its own collapse.

In 2003, at a meeting of the AFL-CIO, then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama said, “A single-payer universal health care plan. That’s what I’d like to see. But, as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.” Then in 2007, at a Service Employees International Union health care forum, presidential candidate Barack Obama said, “I don’t think we are going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process.”

On March 23, President Obama signed Obamacare into law. This is a law that does the following:

1. Mandates what coverage insurance companies must provide.

2. Gives the federal government the right to regulate the rates insurance companies charge.

3. Minimally penalizes those who do not obtain health insurance.

4. Allows patients to demand coverage from insurance companies, even if they wait until they are sick or injured before they seek coverage.

These four ingredients are a lethal cocktail for health insurance companies. And to ensure that health insurance companies would not survive, our legislators included regulation of medical loss ratios (MLR) into their legislation. Regulation of the MLR means that the federal government can regulate how much insurance companies spend on patient care as opposed to administrative costs. Currently, most insurance companies spend about 30 percent of revenues on administrative costs. The new legislation limits administrative costs to 15 percent. But what qualifies as administrative costs versus patient care? Nobody knows. That is up to the bureaucrats to determine.

For a look into the future of Obamacare, just look at Massachusetts, where a statewide form of Obamacare was instituted in 2006. In 2010, Massachusetts has the highest health care insurance premiums in the country, and they are rising fast. In 2009, just three years after implementation of their new law, three of the four major insurers in the state reported losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. The state insurance regulators are debating whether or not to grant the companies the right to raise their premiums. In other words, the insurance companies are about to go under and are at the mercy of the state.

Similar to what we are seeing in Massachusetts, insurance premiums across the United States increased on Sept. 23 by as much as 9 percent because of the new mandates introduced by Obamacare. In response, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, issued a thuggish warning to America’s health insurance plans, stating that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.” She is keeping a list of insurers with a record of “unjustified rate increases” and plans to bar these insurance providers from the insurance exchanges in 2014.

Obamacare is designed to fail, and to usher in single-payer, government-run health care. Mr. Obama recently appointed Donald Berwick to be the head of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services. He will be administering the new single-payer system. Dr. Berwick has professed a “love affair” with the British national health system, describing it as a “seductress” about which he is “romantic.” It is no coincidence that he was chosen for this powerful position.

What is so bad about single-payer health care? Look at the evidence. Compare health care outcomes in the United States to single-payer systems such as the United Kingdom, Canada or France. The survival rate for almost all types of cancer is substantially higher in the United States, and in many cases, such as breast and prostate, dramatically higher. The likelihood you will get the indicated preventative services such as mammography, PSA levels or colonoscopy is dramatically higher in the United States. The likelihood you will receive the most recent medical therapies (e.g., statins for heart disease) is dramatically higher in the United States.

What about innovation? Americans played a key role in 80 percent of the major medical advancements over the last 30 years. The top five hospitals in the United States conduct more clinical research than any other country in the world. And since the mid-1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine has gone to residents of the United States more often than to recipients from all other countries in the world combined.

In short, our health care system is the envy of the world. Our legislators just squandered our health care system in the pursuit of a utopian dream of single-payer, government-run universal health care.

And the cost? President Obama promised that he would not sign a health care bill that would increase the debt by even one dime. The Senate Budget Committee found that Obamacare will cost $2.5 trillion over 10 years. Bear in mind that the actual costs for Medicare have exceeded estimates by a factor of 10.

I am a physician. It is my responsibility to protect the health of my patients. Obamacare is a threat to the health of my patients and to the quality of medical care worldwide. I am also a citizen of the United States. It is my duty to speak up regarding threats to my country. This law will devastate my country financially.

Now that the public is learning more about what is in Obamacare, it is becoming more unpopular by the day. As elections approach, politicians are running away from this atrocious law, and many - Democrat and Republican alike - are professing their opposition to it. But what will they do if they are elected? We must hold their feet to the fire. Demand accountability from your elected representatives. Call them and demand that they sign Rep. Steve King’s Discharge Petition No. 11, if they have not already done so. There are currently 173 signatures, but many who have voiced opposition to Obamacare have not signed. When we get 218, it will force H.R. 4972, titled “To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” to the House floor for an up or down vote. Our representatives must be forced to take a stand as to what they will support after the election.

This is a matter of principle, and it is quite literally a matter of life and death, both for American patients, and the country itself. If you support Obamacare, you must be held to account for the lives lost and for the financial devastation of this country. Demand that your elected representative do the right thing: Repeal Obamacare.

Dr. Mark G. Neerhof is an executive board member of Docs 4 Patient Care.

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