Healthcare Plan Based on Economic Fantasy
by Ron Paul
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As the healthcare debate rages on, there is one reality that even the proponents of this hostile takeover of healthcare by government cannot ignore — and that is money. The government simply does not have the money for a new, expansive, public healthcare plan. The country is in a deep recession that will deepen even further with the coming collapse of the commercial real estate market. The last thing we need is for government to increase and expand taxes to pay for another damaging, wasteful program. Foreigners are becoming less enthusiastic about buying our debt, and creating another open-ended welfare program when we cannot pay for what is already in place, will not help. Champions of socialized medicine want to tax the rich, tax businesses that already cannot afford to provide health plans to employees, and tax people who don't want to participate in the government's scheme by buying an approved healthcare plan. Presumably, all these taxes are to induce compliance. This is not freedom, nor will it improve healthcare.
There are limits to how much government can tax before it kills the host. Even worse, when government attempts to subsidize prices, it has the net effect of inflating them instead. The economic reality is that you cannot distort natural market pressures without unintended consequences. Market forces would drive prices down. Government meddling negates these pressures, adds regulatory compliance costs and layers of bureaucracy, and in the end, drives prices up.
The non-partisan CBO estimates that the healthcare plan will cost almost a trillion dollars over the next ten years. But government crystal balls always massively underestimate costs. It is not hard to imagine the final cost being two or three times the estimates, even though the estimates are bad enough.
It is still surreal that in a free country we are talking only about HOW government should fix healthcare, rather than WHY government should fix healthcare. This should be between doctors and patients. But this has been the discussion since the 60's and the inception of Medicare and Medicaid, when government first began intervening to keep costs down and make sure everyone had access. The result of Medicaid/Medicare price controls and regulatory burden has been to drive more doctors out of the system — making it more difficult for the poor and the elderly to receive quality care! Seemingly, there are no failed government programs, only underfunded ones. If we refuse to acknowledge common sense economics, the prescription will always be the same: more government.
Make no mistake, government control and micromanagement of healthcare will hurt, not help healthcare in this country. However, if for a moment, we allowed the assumption that it really would accomplish all they claim, paying for it would still plunge the country into poverty. This solves nothing. The government, like any household struggling with bills to pay, should prioritize its budget. If the administration is serious about supporting healthcare without contributing to our skyrocketing deficits, they should fulfill promises to reduce our overseas commitments and use some of those savings to take care of Americans at home instead of killing foreigners abroad.
The leadership in Washington persists in a fantasy world of unlimited money to spend on unlimited programs and wars to garner unlimited control. But there is a fast-approaching limit to our ability to borrow, steal, and print. Acknowledging this reality is not mean-spirited or cruel. On the contrary, it could be the only thing that saves us from complete and total economic meltdown.
August 15, 2009
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.