- - Friday, March 22, 2013

One widespread notion about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—known as Obamacare—is that the law, which turns three years old on March 23, creates a radical health system.

President Obama insists that his signature law, which goes into full effect next year, is a radical improvement. Its opponents, especially conservatives, argue that it’s a radical change for the worse. Both sides ignore that Obamacare is integral to an unmistakable progression in American health care; the law takes us from partial to total government-controlled medicine.

Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has advanced government intervention in medicine. Harry S Truman was first to propose a government-run system, and medicine as a profession has incrementally come under government control. Lyndon B. Johnson created Medicare; Richard Nixon, with Ted Kennedy, created HMOs; and every administration since has enacted more government control—especially George W. Bush, who expanded Medicare. Most of this was done with bipartisan support.

In fact, Obamacare is modeled on a law created by the conservative Heritage Foundation and signed by Republican Mitt Romney.

Over 100 years ago, medical care was generally paid for and delivered in private. When a labor shortage occurred in World War II, businesses competed for workers by offering health insurance, prompting Congress to tax health benefits, which caused an uproar. That prompted Congress to declare employers’ health insurance expenditures tax-deductible, which guaranteed an employer-based health insurance.

In 1965, Congress enacted Medicare. Politicians subsequently piled on regulations, causing costs to skyrocket while most Americans—especially seniors and employees—were shielded from accelerating health costs. Medicine, which had once been private, was defined and distorted by government intervention. By the end of the century, government-controlled medicine—propelled by the idea that health care is a right and unopposed on moral grounds—had prevailed. Step by step, the United States had all but nationalized the medical profession. Obamacare integrates disparate parts of state-sponsored medicine.

Forcing Americans to carry insurance, which the law redefines, Obamacare forces insurers to cover sick people, dictating terms, prices and treatment—at a cost of $1 trillion.

Consumer and producer alike are merged into the system. If insurers are able to co-exist with new government “exchanges,” they are permitted to set prices only under certain conditions. For example, insurers may charge older people exactly three times more than younger citizens, whom insurers are forced to cover under the shelter of their parents’ plans until they are 26.

As the Washington Post concluded: “Insurers will increasingly resemble well-regulated public utilities, with new constraints on their rates and profits.” For the first time, all health benefits will be dictated, as the Health and Human Services secretary is mandated to define what Obamacare calls “essential benefits.” What constitutes “essential benefits”? The law prohibits “excessive profits”—but who decides what’s “excessive”? Hospitals will be punished for providing what the government deems inefficient—but by what standard? Statistics? Algorithms? Political favoritism? As if those who concocted this system know that what they’ve made is hazardous to people’s health, Obamacare decrees the establishment of an ominous new government entity: the National Center of Excellence for Depression.

Health care dictatorship is doomed. Yet with national per-person health spending projected to be over 20 percent of the U.S. GDP within a few years—it was 5.4 percent before Medicare—Obamacare as a house of cards may cripple the U.S. economy. Rejected by half the nation’s states, the 3-year-old dictate achieves the opposite of its stated purpose to ensure quality medicine. As the culmination of America’s history of government-controlled medicine, Obamacare threatens every American life.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once infamously declared that Congress had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. As we reach the law’s third year mark, we know what’s in it—and we know it is poison. The public should reject the moral premise that health care is a right, stop the cycle and put an end to government-run medicine before it’s too late.

Scott Holleran (www.ScottHolleran.com) is a Los Angeles writer.

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