Friday, 28 August 2009 00:00
Continued debate about “public options” or “death panels” only diverts attention away from the primary issue that drives the health care legislation making its way through Congress. HR-3200 is more than a thousand pages of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and soft selling platitudes that give cover to a massive federal government power grab, pure and simple.
It’s pointless to argue about what procedures are included or not, because none of that is defined. See section 121 “Coverage of Essential Benefits Package.” No specific benefits are laid out. That will be left to an expanded executive branch bureaucracy with the power to impose a common set of standards on all providers of health insurance.
The bill establishes a “Health Benefits Advisory Committee,” comprising a collection of named stakeholders to recommend standards. The Surgeon General will chair that panel and the other 26 members of the HBAC are to be appointed by the President and the Comptroller General. Some may fret that this will result in a committee dominated by political hacks without medical training or experience. But the legislation is very specific that this committee includes “at least one practicing physician or other health professional.” Feel better now?
And don’t worry about how a “practicing” physician. (i.e.: one who is actively treating patients) would have time to simultaneously diagnose and prescribe what is best for 300 million Americans. There will be plenty of help on the committee from members with nothing else to do except dedicate full time to this noble endeavor. The legislation identifies these four specific areas of expertise to be part of the HBAC: “experts in health care financing and delivery;” “experts in racial and ethnic disparities;” “experts in care for those with disabilities;” and “an expert on children’s health.”
It is unclear how one achieves “expert” status in these disciplines. But surely the new “Health Choices Administration” could be tasked to promulgate regulations for certifying levels of proficiency.
The President and Congress are presenting this as a way to lower costs by improving competition, but it does just the opposite. If each “Qualified Health Benefit Plan” must provide whatever the Federal government dictates, that will stifle competition since all must offer the same thing at the same (regulated) price. This will effectively put the brakes on any innovations that may otherwise bring about better services or improved levels of care.
There are many ways to improve competition, but they all involve fewer restrictions and less centralized control. For example, if Congress wanted to improve competition they could draw on their authority to regulate commerce among the states (Article 1. Section 8.) and lift restrictions that prohibit individuals from purchasing private coverage across state lines. That would be a proper exercise of power by the Federal government. Instead we have a prevailing attitude that ignores constitutional restraints.
Each of our legislators and the President has sworn to preserve the Constitution of the United States. President Obama even lays claim to being a “Constitutional scholar.” Yet no one can cite which of the enumerated powers granted by the Constitution to Congress provides the authority for what is being proposed in this legislation.
If this monstrosity is enacted it will further erode individual freedoms, increase the tyrannical power of the government, and mark another milestone on the road to serfdom.
A. Scott Wilson