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December 6, 2006

Dem Health Care Plans: Piecemeal Socialism


Future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “Six in ‘06” policy agenda includes just one health care provision  – allowing the federal government to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. In truth, Pelosi and her big government allies are taking a piecemeal approach toward their larger socialist goal of universal health care. As some conservatives in Congress have shown, however, the only way to lower health care costs is through free market solutions.


Universal health care is as much a sacrament to liberalism as protecting abortion on demand and ensuring that no changes are ever made to the failed Social Security structure. The Executive Summary of the 1993 National Health Security Plan, better known as HillaryCare, stated “The Health Security plan guarantees comprehensive health benefits for all American citizens and legal residents, regardless of health or employment status.” Also in 1993, Hillary Clinton said at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis, “…every American should have the right to necessary health care.” The Founding Fathers were so concerned about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness they forgot to guarantee health care for all. Three out of four provided a pretty good foundation.


Since HillaryCare failed, liberal policymakers have had to be as patient as a Chicago Cubs fan on health care issues. But they now sense a public ready to accept a repackaged HillaryCare program. A November 11 Rasmussen poll found that 54 percent of respondents “might be receptive to Democratic health care proposals,” versus 35 percent who “currently trust the GOP more on the issue.” In a November 12 Gallup Poll, 71 percent said the nation’s health care system was in a “state of crisis” or faced “major problems.” In the same Gallup poll, 69 percent agreed that “It is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.” If you tell people for 40 years that they have the right to free health care, that is the answer we should expect.


Conservative think tanks and pundits have done a great job explaining the massive threats to the economy and the quality of health care delivery posed by a universal health care system. Now is the time for conservatives to discuss their market-based health care proposals, instead of ceding the bully pulpit on the issue to liberals. The November 12 Gallup poll also found that when respondents were asked if they favor maintaining the current health care system based on private health insurance or replacing the current system with government run health care, 51 percent favored maintaining the private insurance-based system. Connect the dots, Republicans. A majority of Americans want a more efficient and affordable health care system, but they reject HillaryCare.


What the voters want is members of a political party, any of the two major parties, to fix the broken health care system. The public does not necessarily agree with liberal health care proposals, but liberals are at least talking about the issue. A majority of today’s Republican office holders lack the courage to espouse free-market, private insurance solutions, even when polls indicate that is the public’s preference.


The same dynamic occurred last year during debate over restructuring Social Security, abolishing the estate tax and making the tax rate cuts on capital gains and dividends taxes permanent. One strong gust of liberal hot air and the Republican leaders in Congress collapse like a straw house.


One conservative solution pending in Congress is the Self-Employed Health Care Affordability Act (HR 4961). The self-employed were given the ability in 2003 to deduct the cost of their health insurance premiums, but they must still pay payroll taxes on the income used to purchase health insurance. This inequity imposes a 15.3 percent tax on the self-employed’s health insurance premiums. Corporations are allowed to deduct their health insurance costs as a business expense. HR 4961 eliminates the inequity by allowing the self-employed to deduct health insurance costs when computing their self-employment taxes.


Another conservative solution introduced this year is the Health Care Choice Act (HR 2355). The HCCA would allow individuals who reside in one state to purchase an insurance plan licensed in another state and frees health insurance companies to sell their policies in all 50 states. The HCCA will increase competition among insurance companies, reduce regulations and their associated costs and increase individual choice of the competing health care plans.


Perhaps now that Republicans are the minority party in Congress they will find the intestinal fortitude to speak candidly about market-based solutions to rising health care costs. Introducing legislation alone is constructive, but not an adequate solution to combating the liberals’ populist rhetoric on the health care issue.


The 2008 presidency can go to the candidate who most effectively details a common sense approach to fixing the health care system that does not include further expansion of entitlement programs and limits on choice. Control of Congress in two years may similarly rest on Republicans’ ability to communicate their health care solutions.


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