In health care, fighting for spoils 

Once major players in Washington, D.C., divide up our health and health care decision-making power, particularly the $2.5 trillion in annual spending, they will declare the crisis over and the nation’s health saved. Don’t believe them — just take a look at who wins.

During its review of the first draft of health care legislation, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee had the temerity to block a Republican amendment that would require 72 hours for consideration and a full cost estimate before a final committee vote on any legislation, but not the courage to stop the interest groups from exercising their power plays.

The AARP, an organization that makes nearly $700 million per year from selling Medicare products, is actively supporting the effective elimination of the Medicare Advantage program, currently enjoyed by 10 million seniors. Being forced back into the traditional Medicare program means millions of new customers and tens of millions in profits each year.

Unions typically pretend that the cost of health care benefits is not part of an employee’s total compensation. Now, they are furious that certain health plans would be taxed and clearly would prefer the language of the House versions of the bill that exempt them from needing to follow the rules created “for the rest of us.”

Liberal groups are screaming for higher subsidies and a government-run option, placing even more power in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats. Doctors recognize that the Medicare funding tsunami is barely being noticed and need to prepare themselves for never-ending trench warfare in Washington, D.C., to avoid annual massive funding cuts.

The drug companies are seeing the fruits of their deal with the White House: millions of new customers and an explicit absence of regulations they have fought against for years.

Members of Congress, their families and their staffers are huge winners, of course, because they are writing the rules. The “insurance exchange,” the new independent health benefits commission, and the new government-financed, -regulated and -controlled “co-ops” that will be independent of government will not apply to them.

Meanwhile, private health insurers are acting stealthily and aggressively to create their own Cold War-era spheres of influence. One major private insurer has 75 lobbyists simultaneously swarming Capitol Hill, doing fundraisers for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, all the while engaging in a war to see that laws are passed requiring everyone to buy their product.

This money grab must be stopped to enable reforms that genuinely put the rights of individuals and families first. Without this, the chest-beating news conferences and photo ops declaring the “crisis solved” will do nothing but place the health and health care of the American people on a path toward even worse disaster.

 

Dr. Eric Novack is an orthopedic surgeon, senior fellow in health policy for Americans for Prosperity and chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom.

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