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Ignoring the Message, Loud and Clear


We are reaching a critical juncture in the steamroll toward healthcare reform a majority of Americans don't want. The political arrogance of a President trying to ram through a sweeping legislative change by means of reconciliation is staggering. The willful disregard of an informed and engaged American public is sobering.

We are reaching a critical juncture in the steamroll toward healthcare reform a majority of Americans don’t want. The political arrogance of a President trying to ram through a sweeping legislative change by means of reconciliation is staggering. The willful disregard of an informed and engaged American public is sobering.

The arrogance and willful disregard is reflected in the fact that the Administration is basically saying, Americans don't want this now, but they'll like it once it becomes law. This is akin to telling Americans that we don't know what we want, only he knows what we want. I resent and reject that argument.

If President Obama's pursuit of a healthcare reform bill at any cost was based on his deep conviction to improve our system of healthcare delivery in this country, I would have grudging respect for his determination. But everything about his pursuit of reform has indicated instead that he is determined only to score a political victory at any cost.

Worse still, the political energy expended on this front means that the President has broken yet another promise. A few short weeks ago, he vowed during the State of the Union Address that job growth would be priority number one for his administration. It has not been. His top priority has been and continues to be passing the largest expansion of our federal government since the 1930s.

I have mentioned in previous blogs here, here, and here, why I support healthcare reform but oppose this form of it, which creates and entitlement program that can never be stopped while still neglecting the central problem of healthcare—that consumers don’t have any skin in the game, and therefore don’t make rational healthcare decisions.

In short, the 4 most important things any reform plan can do is (1) change the structure of the employer-based system to put funding directly in the hands of healthcare consumers, (2) offer big tax breaks for employers who offer health savings accounts, (3) Give individuals the same tax break as corporations to buy insurance, and (4) Allow those consumers to carry those plans with them across state lines, creating greater competition among health plans. ObamaCare doesn’t do any of that.

If the politics of the ObamaCare push aren’t bad enough, let’s take a look at how the prototype for ObamaCare—healthcare reform in Masschusetts—is doing. Put simply, healthcare in the state is in disarray. In February, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick proposed hard price controls across almost all Massachusetts healthcare and filed a bill that would give state regulators the power to review the rates of hospitals, physician groups and some specialty providers. Those that are deemed too high “shall be presumptively disapproved.”

The big selling point of the Massachusetts plan was that it would expand care while controlling spending. Does that sound familiar? A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that, “Average Massachusetts insurance premiums are now the highest in the nation. Since 2006, they’ve climbed at an annual rate of 30% in the individual market. Small business costs have increased by 5.8%. Per capita health spending in Massachusetts is now 27% higher than the national average, and 15% higher even after adjusting for local wages and academic research grants. The growth rate is faster too.” ObamaCare will have the same effect, but with a national multiplier.

ObamaCare promises to use the model from earlier entitlement programs—namely, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—that were created to “help people” but are now on the verge of bankrupting the country. All of the predecessors that ObamaCare have been modeled after are failures. Why can we expect a different result from this massive new entitlement? Who can look back on the creation of those earlier programs and think, “Let’s try that again!”

All the evidence we need is right in front of us, yet because that evidence is contrary to the goals of this administration, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. If President Obama thinks the political damage from not passing a healthcare reform bill will be severe, wait until he sees what passage of this bill will bring.

I can't help but be reminded of the old parable of the man forced to the roof of his house by rising flood waters. A policeman had knocked on his door and warned about the rising water, but the man had turned him away, saying, "The Lord will save me. Next, a rowboat, and finally a helicopter appeared, but were turned away as well. The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually the man on the roof was washed away and drowned. At the gates of heaven, the man said to the Lord, I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?" God gave him a puzzled look, and replied, “I sent you a warning, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”

The unpopularity of this bill, the emergence of the tea party movement, the rising dissatisfaction of voters across the political spectrum, the crumbling of the Massachusetts healthcare model, and stunning defeats in elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts have been President Obama’s warning, his boat, and his helicopter. He continues to ignore them. What more does he expect?

Mike Hennessy is Chairman and CEO of MJH & Associates. Click here for more Hennessy's Highlights

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