COLUMN: Take Two And Call Me In November

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

“Okay, Mister … Sam, is it? What seems to be the problem?”

With all the ailments facing the United States, health care is getting its turn in the Capitol Hill clinic. The potential of a “public option” has become a hot topic in Congress and many representatives and senators are scrambling for alternatives. But let’s take a fair look at what President Obama is offering, along with the other options being considered. Afterward, we’ll have a little kumbaya moment and discuss their implications.

I tried looking up the President’s plan on his Web site. (I know, uncharted waters for a conservative). After picking my jaw up off the ground from beholding this PR masterpiece, I looked for President Obama’s plan to reform health care. After being offered several times to “Stand with the President” in his quest to “organize” America, I finally found what seem to be three core principles that President Obama is striving to include in health care:

  • Reduce costs — Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals, and families, and they must be brought under control.
  • Guarantee choice — Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor – including the choice of a public insurance option.
  • Ensure quality care for all — All Americans must have quality and affordable health care.

Okay, I like this idea. I want people to have lower costs, choice of plans and ensured quality. Very nicely done, Doctor Obama, but how do you plan on making that happen? This is where the “pubic option” comes in. Obama and his supporters are working to create a federal contender in the private insurance market. Now before you run for the border, hear out the argument.

Proponents of the public option will tell you that 46 million people are completely uninsured. What they won’t tell you is that this is only 18 percent of the total population under 65 years of age. Now, I’m no statistician, but 82 percent was never that bad. Granted, I’m not saying that neither health care nor the millions without health insurance are undeserving of attention; however, I am apprehensive of the President’s attempt to use this number as his keystone argument to push for socialized health care.

Furthermore, since when did the umpire get a chance to bat? I thought government was established to “promote the general welfare,” not provide it. Despite Obama’s assurance that federal contenders wouldn’t undermine the private insurers but stimulate better and more affordable competition, one can only wonder if this would even be a fair fight.

Let’s look at the facts: the federal government, the creator of money and the regulator of most commerce (at least since January) is about to enter the arena with the private health insurance companies. What is going to stop the government from continually undercutting their competitors? How will private companies, with limited resources, be able to compete with the federal juggernaut that can pump billions of tax dollars into the system? Sounds like a tough pill to swallow.

Dr. President seems to think that the private insurance companies will simply strike a deal with physicians, specialists and the people requesting the insurance to lower fees for medical treatment. Well, gee wizz, I guess the doctors are just gonna have to get paid less. Nice try, but I think you’ll see Rush Limbaugh join the ACLU before you see the doctors take a hit in their wallets.  And if they are forced to take fee cuts, who in their right mind will be willing to go through years of medical school so they can receive a salary that is subject to federal discretion? The quality of medical care is most likely going to decline if a “public option” is adopted.

This doesn’t stop with just the poor doctors, no sir. You’ll see a huge burden shifted to the small business owners. As mentioned in The New York Times, under the proposal, businesses that don’t offer “affordable” coverage to employees would have to help pay costs of such benefits for their low-income workers. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the proposal “would be a disaster, because it would create disincentive for employers to hire lower-income people on Medicaid.”

Okay, let’s stick it to the little guy because that’s the American way, right? According to a recent report published by the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, based on census data, businesses with fewer than 20 employees account for 90 percent of all U.S. firms and are responsible for more than 97 percent of all new jobs. How can these small “ma and pop” firms afford to not only provide their employees with the benefits of retirement but also be forced to pay for the costs of their employees to enroll in Medicaid, especially when all other forms of insurance will be more expensive than the “public option?” It seems that there will only be less incentive for small businesses to hire these low-income workers.

An alternative currently in development is to create an “exchange” that would be comprised of a national network of member-run cooperatives, with the ability to pool purchasing power to rival private insurance companies. The federal government would offer $3 billion as start up money. This still raises an anti-federalist eyebrow. Who will administer the program? If it’s the federal government, count me out.

As you can tell, this debate is a serious mess (and hopefully my article isn’t of the same quality.) My articles perhaps won’t always be this long, but I feel this is a very important topic to discuss. In my opinion, the key to achieving “the change we can believe in” will be for the federal government to empower local governments to seek out their own solutions. The states are laboratories for good ideas and solutions to this problem. Let the people take charge of the situation. Moreover, if people are only qualifying for low-income jobs, we need to examine why that is. If it’s a question of education or disability, measures need to be taken to help these people qualify. We shouldn’t cater to the under qualified; rather, help the underprivileged qualify themselves. There was a time when benefits, such as retirement and health insurance, were offered to those that had worked to become better skilled contributors to society. Perhaps times have changed and we need to reevaluate our philosophy. You make the diagnosis.

Read more on the continuing health care debate at The Washington Post.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He also currently serves as vice chairman of the BYU College Republicans.

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