Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
There is so much in the Stimulus Package that we are only now learning about and likely to learn about after it passes. And don't feel that you are the only one uninformed. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 58 percent of the American people believe that most members of congress don't know what's in it either.
And there's more than just 800 billion dollars of spending to grow government. There is a wealth of new programs, expanding government and eroding our freedoms in this new piece of legislation. It creates new avenues of dependency and strips away our rights to privacy by growing the welfare state and bringing us socialized medicine through the back door. To read more about how the Stimulus bill reverses the 1996 welfare reform read "Stimulus Bill Abolishes Welfare Reform and Adds New Welfare Spending" by Robert E. Rector and Katherine Bradley at the Heritage Foundation. The healthcare portion of the bill alone should be a shocker for conservatives of all stripes and it's worth taking a serious look at. A new partial subsidy for COBRA coverage is part of the bill. (COBRA is the federal law under which unemployed workers are allowed to buy into their previous employer's health plan.) Since they are paying both their own and what the employer's contribution was formerly, many workers do not opt for COBRA due to the expense. If COBRA were a worker's only option for insurance this might make some kind of sense but it isn't. Most workers can qualify for other plans that better suit their needs and have costs that are aligned to their expenses. By subsidizing what may be an unemployed person's LEAST COST EFFECTIVE health insurance choice, the federal government is now underwriting group health insurance plans, with varying levels of coverage and cost at the expense of taxpaying employers and workers. This further burdens them and increases the likelihood of more layoffs and more employers going out of business. Yes, it's entirely possible that you could have your employer benefits cut or lose them entirely so that somebody else can "afford" their Cadillac healthcare plan. The House bill expands Medicare to the unemployed. Medicare has been expanded many times in recent years and together with the expansion of S-CHIP, which was originally intended to cover children in poverty, we are fast coming to the point where everyone qualifies for federally funded healthcare under one mandate or another. Once enough people fall under these mandates we will see employers finding ways to jettison health insurance coverage. If the Feds will pay for it, why should they? And let's not forget that what the government spends money on, it controls. Both versions of the stimulus bill have measures that establish programs to fund "comparative effectiveness research". There is even a "Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research" whose purpose is to mandate what treatment will or won't be given. The House Committee Report states "those [items] that are found to be less effective and in some cases, more expensive, will no longer be prescribed." A clearer statement that the Federal government will be deciding what treatment you will receive could not have been made. Good luck to you if what works for most people doesn't work for you. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the new administration thinks that it knows what's best for us in healthcare. President Obama's appointee for Health and Human Services Secretary (before he was bounced for non-payment of his own personal income taxes) former Senator Tom Daschle wrote a book published last year entitled "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis." In it, Daschle unleashes such gems as doctors need to "learn to operate less like solo practitioners." He wants us to forgo expensive treatments and not to expect medical progress to continue to advance because it's driving up costs. Forget about quality of life enhancing treatments if you are a senior citizen. Daschle thinks that you should learn to embrace old age like the Europeans do. In the United Kingdom, a government board approves or rejects treatments using a formula which includes the age of the patient. Treatments for younger patients are approved more often than treatments for diseases that primarily affect the elderly. That's pretty much the same thing as saying "suck it up seniors, you're on your way out anyway!" What's cost effective for you and what's cost effective for the government could wind up two very different things and with the government controlling the entire system, you'd be out of luck. The Health Information technology portions of the bills are also chilling for anyone who cares about their privacy and the right to control who has access to their health data. In order to conduct research on what treatments are effective, widespread use of patient information will be necessary. And no longer would you simply be an anonymous data-point. The government will track you, your treatment and your doctor in order to mandate the compliance that will be required with treatment standards. Currently, for hospitals to use your private information, you must give your consent, but what if the Federal government mandates your consent to use your personal information in order for you to be treated? Once the Federal government controls the entire healthcare system, from payment to treatment, we'll have no choice. Pat Anderson is the President of the Minnesota Free Market Institute, and former Minnesota State Auditor.