My Greatest Fear on the Health Care Bill

There are a lot of problems with the health care bills in Congress.  At the end of the day, I will endure most of them, as I have every other indignity thrown at me by the Feds.  If they charge me 8% of my company's payroll as a health care tax, well, we can probably raise prices, particularly in the inflationary spiral the Fed has set us up for.  I will be sad to see the most successful in this country punished with high new taxes, but these taxes mostly won't apply to our family.  And I will find some way to get my family the health care it needs, even if we have to fly to India to do it.

But my biggest fear is for individual liberties, with the effect I have called "the health care Trojan Horse for fascism."  We all know that the government has developed a taste for meddling in the smallest details of our lives.  But as more of the nation's health care spending flows though government hands, nearly every decision you make will suddenly affect the government's budget.  What you eat, how heavy you are, whether you smoke, whether you play an athletic sport where you can get hurt, whether you pursue dangerous hobbies like rock climbing or skiing, whether you wear a bike or motorcycle helmet, whether you have a seat belt on, whether you drink alcohol, whether you like to use dangerous power tools -- all these become direct inputs into government spending via medical bills the government is paying.  And if you think that Congress will avoid legislating on these activities once it inevitably gets in financial trouble with health care, you have not studied much history.

And all this avoids discussion of other powerful individual liberty-related topics, such as the ability to get the end of life care you want or whether the government will even allow you to go "off plan" with your own money if you disagree with its Commissar's rulings on what care you should and should not receive.

It's fascinating for me to watch all these children of the sixties in the Democratic Party, most of whom screamed (rightly) at George Bush continuing to implement new plans where we give up individual liberties for security.  But here come those exact same people, with the exact same message - because this is what health care reform is about, at its core - giving up individual liberties in exchange for a (perceived) increase in security.

  • Methinks

    They're still children. When Obama kept every single aspect of the Patriot Act against which they railed on grounds of loss of liberty, all wailing and chest pounding ended. It's not that they are being enslaved that bothers them, what bothers them is who the slave master is.

    I think they're going to have a hard time stopping people who can afford it from paying out of pocket for health care. Whatever is left of the constitution may still allow doctors to take cash paying clients and there are some excellent doctors who refuse to take patients with any kind of insurance now. They will be the extreme minority, so I doubt they will be targeted. And if they are, then you just hop on a plane and visit a doctor in a country other than the USSA.

    I immigrated here before it became the USSA from the USSR and I was very happy to pay taxes here to a government and country that used to basically protect my liberty. Even progressively higher taxes. But now, the taxes have become too high (I'm forward looking) and my liberty has been diminished significantly - to the point that I no longer feel that much freer here than I would in many other countries. For God's sake, I can be a citizen of France, live in the Virgin Islands and not pay the French tax rate - which will soon be lower than America's. As an American, the long arm of the IRS reaches me where ever I live.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I used to really love this country. I keep a copy of the constitution in my office along with an American flag. Without liberty and that great American self-sufficiency, this country is nothing but a collection of badly dressed obese people and revolting food.

  • Rick

    Good points all around...

    Coyote writes about something I was trying to stress to my father, who favors this sort of "health care reform". He's like a lot of Americans, he doesn't care much for most of Uncle Sam's absurdities but on this issue he's scared to be without "coverage" of any sort. So he's one of those who is willing to trade individual liberty for some "security". So instead of getting into the debate of "government mismanages everything and reduces liberty vs health care is a right" I tried showing him a chart of the Byzantine maze of bureaucracy that would be health care and also told him about the Trojan horse that's things like "home visitations". I don't know if that had any effect or not.

    That said, the current HMO system is absurd. I can't afford to keep paying premiums that rise 10% or more every year but cover less and less. That's where the calls for "reform" are coming from and where they get their "credibility". But forcing me to buy it, either as an individual or business, isn't reform at all but the enslavement of Americans to a health care cartel. Also, it's unfair that Americans are paying for the full cost of developing the world's pharmaceuticals... and our patent and copyright system needs some enlightened reform because there needs to be more generic, i.e. affordable, prescription drugs rather than less.

    But, none of these health care reforms - good or bad - are going to make much difference if we don't change our monetary policy and get rid of the Federal Reserve, and go back to honest hard money banking.

    It's not so much that medical services are "more expensive" in so much as the dollar has lost purchasing power. And the money that is going to be used for this health care scheme? Most of it is going to be manufactured, i.e. printed out of thin air. In addition to higher income taxes we'll have the hidden tax of inflation and the banking cartel will just get richer at the public's expense.

  • Fred Z

    I'm less pessimistic.

    I think that we are seeing the beginning of the end, or perhaps the end of the beginning, of this particular strain of socialism. Americans are re-learning the lessons: the king is not your friend. Better king log than king stork. All bureaucracies become self serving cancers.

    Why am I optimistic? I'm Canadian. We got the fever before you did and we seem to be slowly, slowly, recovering.

    We got Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1968 and he was the same leftish, academic, never worked a day in his life at a real job, transformative, charismatic, egotistic, nutbar as Obama. More and more Canadians are seeing the damage he caused more and more clearly.

    Even those damn dumb Europeans seem to be sorting it out.

    Never surrender.

  • mishu

    That said, the current HMO system is absurd.

    Does anyone really pick the HMO option anymore? Honestly, with all the bad pub HMO's have gotten, why would anyone favor that over a PPO?

  • Methinks

    Mishu,

    In the nominally "free market" where insurance is regulated by the state, the HMO may be the only option. For example:

    When I started my own business, I began shopping around for insurance. I was young, fit, healthy and didn't (still don't) mind paying for doctors visits out of pocket. Since my state allowed insurance companies to offer catastrophic only insurance, I opted for that. The only thing is...they didn't cover pregnancy catastrophes. So, if the pregnancy threatened my life, it's covered, but if the baby had a problem, it's out of pocket for me. So, I asked them to offer me pregnancy catastrophe insurance. They can't. State won't let them. OK - how about a pregnancy rider? Well, that covers everything (every doctor's visit, every blood test - which I didn't necessarily want) and is unavailable in my state. The only plan that covered pregnancy was a ghastly expensive and horrible HMO. Bottom line, if you want to get pregnant and are willing to bear all the costs except the cost of true and relatively rare emergencies yourself, you are shit out of luck and the HMO is the only options.

    Thanks, insurance regulators, for protecting me from choice and lower prices!

  • DKH

    Honestly, I can hardly see how Bush compares. I understand that indefinite detention of foreigners and preemptive war can be troubling from an "I don't want my leader to do that" perspective. I've heard a lot of whining about the Patriot Act, but I've yet to hear any actual stories of it negatively affecting a person's liberties. That doesn't mean it isn't troubling, but I'd expect there to be at least a few anecdotes.

    But while Bush was President, there was no serious discussion of a carbon cap or even a carbon tax. There was no serious discussion of national health care plans. TARP and stimulus were discussed during the Bush administration, but that may or may not have resulted from the political environment and dealing with a Democratic Congress.

    Obama's policies bother me much more than Bush's. Obama's are increasing the deficit enormously aren't even nominally related to increasing or protecting Americans' freedom.

  • Anon

    Methinks:

    Great points!

    How about:
    (1) remove all tax breaks for employer-supplied health insurance. Tax it just like you do all other compensation.

    (2) Congress exercises the commerce clause, and passes a law letting insurance companies sell health insurance across state borders, i.e., person A in California could purchase health insurance from a provider in Delaware. The Delaware insurance would comply only with Delaware law.

    (3) Stand back and let "reform" happen under market pressures and competition between the states. Change will be gradual--that's a feature, not a bug.

  • Bertha

    Also look forward to your reduced choices and increased costs when the gov't starts suing fast food purveyors, soft drink makers, and candy companies, just like it did big tobacco, to recover its treatment costs.

  • Doug

    In Obama's brave new world, imagine an NFL running back ripping an ACL, then needing surgery to repair it. He chose his occupation, knowing the risks to his physical well-being were high. Why should we all have to pay for his risky lifestyle? Shouldn't he, as Obama said a couple of weeks ago, just take the pain pill instead of having the surgery?

  • http://www,tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    I also think that Bush's "excesses" - especially from the 60's lefties point of view - are pretty minor and don't belong in this discussion. They got upset because they disagreed with his view of the level of danger of Islamofascim, and certain specific policies of his that harmed hardly any Americans (GITMO, for example).

    Libertarians have more of a beef - with the Medicare prescription coverage - but even that is only folly if one plans to destroy Medicare. Otherwise it was a very necessary modernization to a system that evolved when drugs were cheap (and much less effective).

    TARP was (contrary to my fellow Bush defender's comments) done by the Bush Administration.

    I don't know if it was a terrible mistake or critically staved off a financial catastrophe. The economics of the situation are just not clear.

    So... elections have consequences. The consequence of this one (listen up, libertarians who wouldn't vote for McCain) is to put an aggressively statist (even fascist) president and congress in power, and hand them the keys to our future.

  • Methinks

    Anon,

    Thanks and I couldn't agree more. I just made those very suggestions to someone else today.

    Doug,

    In Obama’s brave new world, imagine an NFL running back ripping an ACL, then needing surgery to repair it.

    Ah! Well, see, the football players are "national treasures" too important to just let them pay for the consequences of their choices - much like politically connected companies are just too darn big to fail. Seeing as he's a national treasure and all, your life-saving heart surgery will be postponed to make room for his ACL surgery (you know, scarce resources and all, limited operating rooms!) so that we can get him back on the field pronto to keep that all-important national pride going! If you croak as a result...well, how much are you really worth to the state anyway? You're just a cost.

    I've been there before. I totally know how this national healthcare crap works.

  • DKH

    John Moore:

    Correct about TARP. I forgot to correct that in my post as I hit "submit."

    My main point is that TARP wasn't a particular political vision of Bush, but rather a product of the political environment (which may or may not be true). Stimulus was also debated toward the end of his administration (we must do SOMETHING!), but again, I view that as a product of the political environment.

    Bush was no great champion of individual liberty, but he expended a lot of political capital attempting (and failing) to reform social security.

    Some of Bush's positions may have limited social liberty, but many of his actions were related to protecting Americans' (or others') life/liberty/property. Cap and trade, however, is very much a limit on liberty. Health care reform is a limit on liberty, and could cost some Americans their lives. Stimulus will at the least require a tax on property. These policies don't expand freedom much if at all, except for the freedom to spend other people's money. This is why I don't think Bush even belongs in this conversation.

  • Prof Frink

    Well said John Moore.

  • http://www,tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    I usually hear people talk about how Bush limited liberty, but I just don't see any significant amount of it. I heard lots of screaming about phone intercepts (international calls only, of course), but that wasn't really a limit on American liberty.

    So why is it that people complain that Bush limited liberty?

  • Dr. T

    "... this is what health care reform is about, at its core - giving up individual liberties in exchange for a (perceived) increase in security."

    It's worse than that, because the health care reform plan also acts as a way to transfer money from upper- and upper middle-class taxpayers to the middle- and lower middle-class taxpayers and to illegal immigrants (they get a free ride regardless of income).

  • Rick

    Mishu,

    Re: HMO vs PPO?

    Either one, I was referring to private insurance options in general.

    At the moment I do have a PPO, which is less premium than an HMO, and I have a HSA. The PPO is more like catastrophe insurance because it has a high deductible. So far, so good... and I do like it better than a HMO. But Methinks is right, the government often restricts choice and rising monthly costs are a problem.

  • http://www.ilovebenefits.wordpress.com ilovebenefits

    The impact is the elimination of choices. The impact is the elimination of your ability to work hard earn a living and decide how you want to spend your dollars. More and more of your dollars go to taxes. The other day in a Philadelphia town hall meeting the citizen challenge the Representative with the question of whether the government was going to fine him $2500 if he chose not to spend his wages on health care.

    The Representative said, what if you get sick are you going to ask others to pay for your health care?

    What the citizen should have responded is, are you telling me that health care is more important than paying for my family's housing and food?

    Follow the health care debate at http://www.ilovebenefits.wordpress.com

  • Rick

    Re: Bush and Liberty

    Bush was no lover of liberty or real champion of free markets. But Obama is starting to scare me more than Bush... I never thought I would say something like that a few years ago.

    I think people hated Bush because of the war in Iraq, allegations of torture, Gitmo, etc... Obama's election was a reaction to the shock of war and the disillusionment resulting from 9/11. I hated Bush for the war too. But Obama represents the sort of doctrinaire progressive orthodoxy that targets Americans, not Iraqi's. And he's not doing much to reverse some of the Bush foreign policy and WOT blunders either, other than sending Gitmo prisoners elsewhere.

  • Michael

    You have to remember that the left really thought Bush was going to declare marshal law to stay president for life. You can't be on the left and be rational. Take Biden, the way to stop bankruptcy is through debt based spending.

  • Michael

    I think Bush would have liked to set up a legal way of dealing with the people at Gitmo, but every leftwing legal group was suing him to control the process which is still going on.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    We already know Obama’s repertoire consists of Jimmy Carter self-righteous bullshit, coupled with the trial lawyers & unions demand lists. He’s already a proven fascist (see GM, Chrysler).

    Dr. T hits probably the more important point:

    None of this is about “reform” in any way – it’s about redistribution, of power and wealth. It’s being removed from us, and given to clueless 60s radicals and their bureaucratic minions.

    These people haven’t studied any economics and hardly any history. They are flat-out delusional, as is the 50+% sucker contingency who voted for this moron.

    And great point about end-of-life care, coyote. If this crap passes, and I’m denied life-extending care down the road, I’ll have a whole list of administrative offices to suicide bomb. That’s one choice where they’ll increase options.

    If I haven’t left the country already, that is.

  • Rick

    I think it's interesting how some people here are writing about Bush like he's some misunderstood hero. Bush was a terrible President. His gangs nationalism, war profiteering, and bank bailouts did more to help usher in socialism than anything Obama is doing. Bush laid the foundation for Obama.

  • Rick

    I think it's interesting how some people here are writing about Bush like he's some misunderstood hero. Bush was a terrible President. His gangs nationalism, war profiteering, and bank bailouts have done more to user in socialism than anything Obama's doing. Bush laid the foundation for Obama.

  • http://negativerailroad.com foxmarks

    John Moore:
    As I hear it, PATRIOT is used as a tool in the War on (some) Drugs. There are no significant liberties compromises looking through the terrorism lens, but the state enjoys magnified ability to meddle in other voluntary transactions.

    As abhorrent as the current aggressively statist President is, McCain offered a trip down the same path. Barry is getting me to the revolution faster. Either way it was going to be ugly, and I have no regrets voting someone other than Country First. It’s still anti-individualism. With all McCain‘s “reach across the aisle” crapola, we would still have had a porkulous, cap-and-tax, and probably already passed some lousy health care reform.

    Each generation has to learn for itself that politicians are liars, and that government cannot solve the calculation problem.

  • http://http//www.obamabloopers.org/ John Moore

    As abhorrent as the current aggressively statist President is, McCain offered a trip down the same path. Barry is getting me to the revolution faster.

    You are dangerously deluded!

    Revolutions typically kill 10% of the population. Do you really want that?

    Nutso, man.

  • Jason

    I agree (mostly) with DKH and John Moore, but would like to add:

    The Angry Left confuses privacy with liberty. If I accept the loss of privacy that comes from this email being screened by NSA and that same screening system prevented the death of your family in the next 9-11 plot, then I don't really feel I have lost a lot of liberty. Maybe if I were selling meth or trading child porn then giving up my privacy would have a direct impact on my liberty- and those that seem to most adamantly equate privacy and freedom always seem to have some habits that would be considered at least reprehensible and often illegal.

    Second, not sure how "W" slipped into some of the big spending - in percentage terms, not out of line, given the circumstances- but his execution of the prescription drug benefit was a brilliant application of free market reform to government health care. As our host often points out, government often layers more bad regulations on top of bad regulations in order to address the unintended consequences of the original bad policy (Sar-box, Freddy Fanny...) By structuring a large federal program around free market competition, Bush showed that nanny state objectives can be met more efficiently with free markets, without compromising the objectives or leading to profiteering.

  • macquechoux

    Bertha, it is going to be worse than that. The nanny staters, wing nuts, et al, will be limiting, dictating, controlling, and taxing our food because it we don't eat "healthy" than the government will have to pay for our life style choices. The government is going to end up in your shopping cart, kitchen, pantry, and coffee room at work... all in the name of providing health care and protecting you.

  • http://www.tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    Jason,

    It is not only the angry left that confuse privacy with liberty. Libertarians are just as extreme in that regard.