Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Private Health Insurance in the House Bill


President Obama has promised repeatedly that he won't "mess with"
private insurance for those who are happy with their current health
care coverage. When challenged with evidence that his health care plan
would gradually destroy private plans, Mr. Obama dismisses the
argument as mere "scare tactics and fear-mongering." But fear of
nationalized health care is justified.

In an address to the American Medical Association in June, the
president accused his opponents of deception. "Let me also address an
illegitimate concern that's being put forward by those who are
claiming that a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a
single-payer system," he said. "So when you hear the naysayers claim
that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this:
They're not telling the truth."

Mr. Obama has not successfully made the case for fundamental change in
the health care system. A Fox News poll released July 23 shows that 84
percent of the insured rate their insurance as excellent or good.
Another 13 percent rate their insurance as fair, and just 3 percent
rate it as poor. With those numbers, it isn't surprising that
Americans want to keep their private insurance policies.

Reading the fine print in the Democratic health care plans shows that
the days of private health insurance are numbered if any of the
proposals pass and government's role is expanded. One scheme is to
increase cost-shifting by lowering reimbursement rates to hospitals
and doctors by Medicare and Medicaid; this subsidizes some patients at
the expense of others. Other initiatives propose below-cost pricing
for government insurance and prevent private insurance companies from
treating patients with pre-existing conditions differently from
healthy individuals. Any of these mandates would kill private
insurance by making it impossible to make a profit in the business.

Some of his campaign speeches uncover what Mr. Obama is up to. In
March 2007, he addressed the Service Employees International Union's
health care forum. "I would hope that we can set up a system that
allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal
system or a state pool of some sort, but I don't think we're going to
be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately," he said. "There's
going to be potentially some transition process."

In 2003, Mr. Obama told the AFL-CIO, "I happen to be a proponent of a
single-payer, universal health care program ... That's what I'd like
to see."

The White House issued a video statement on Aug. 4 claiming that the
quotes used above are out of context and distort what Mr. Obama said
during his talks. Yet Linda Douglass, communications director for the
White House's Health Reform Office, has refused numerous requests from
The Washington Times to provide a single example of how the above
quotes were taken out of context.

Mr. Obama's past statements against private health coverage parallel
proposed legislation so closely that the intention to do away with
private coverage is clear. As he said, the president is not going to
take away private insurance instantly; there will be some transition.
But the goal is to abolish private health coverage in America.

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