John Blundell, the English writer and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, was asked what advice the Iron Lady would have had for today’s presidential candidates. She would have been concerned with mounting debt, he said, but her first priority would have been to avoid, at all costs, a government takeover of health care. She knew that once you have a government-run system, you can never get rid of it, no matter how ruinous it is.
Thatcher performed an economic miracle in Great Britain through privatization of large sectors of the British economy. But the massive special interest groups and public gullibility protecting the single-payer National Health Service stymied her to the end.
This is America’s great upcoming challenge, to turn back Obamacare before it’s too late. The program, enacted over two years ago, is hanging by a thread. It’s massively unpopular with the public, even though it’s a social program with lots of “free stuff.” The Supreme Court seems likely to strike down at least part of the law as unconstitutional. And the more we find out about it, the less we like it.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Obamacare was craftily designed with all the good stuff, the insurance mandates and subsidies phased-in early while the fees, taxes and premium hikes to pay for it were delayed. This was supposed to produce acceptable 10-year financial projections while persuading Americans to learn to love it before the bills came due.
But Americans are wising up. For example, Jonathan Gruber is an MIT professor who in 2009, on behalf of the White House, refuted claims that insurance premiums would rise under Obamacare. Now he’s changed his tune, advising at least three states which are establishing insurance exchanges that premiums in the individual market will rise by 19 percent to 30 percent. That’s only common sense, since all insurers would be bound by “guaranteed issue,” permitting patients to wait until they are sick to buy insurance.
There’s more, much more. In March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projected that Obamacare would cost the government $940 billion over 10 years. That was recently changed to $1.76 trillion, nearly double. And there’s one thing you can take to the bank: Those projections are seriously understated.
Government analysts never accurately project the responses people have to government social programs. For example, at its inception in 1966, forecasters for Medicare projected that the cost would quadruple from $3 billion all the way to $12 billion by 1990. Critics scoffed at this exaggeration. The actual number for 1990 was $107 billion.
Obamacare’s advocates don’t dispute any of this, it just doesn’t matter to them. The law itself is a hybrid combining what they wanted (total government takeover) with what it took to get the bill passed. Private insurance companies, shorn of decision-making authority, were left as the financial intermediaries, as a reward for their cooperation.
The fatal flaw is that there is no practical cost control mechanism to counter the explosion in demand that will inevitably occur. Oh sure, there’s plenty of bureaucratic interference, principally from the shockingly unaccountable Independent Payment Advisory Board. But top-down price controls have never worked to permanently bend the cost for health care or anything else. There’s no reason to think they will this time.
But if Obamacare is a mutant that can’t possibly work, the Left knows that can be a good thing too, if its failure can be used as a reason to further centralize health care. It’s not paranoia to believe that the long-term dream of lefties is to make us all dependent on government for health care. They say it themselves, going back to Rep. Phil Burton in 1966, who expressed confidence that Medicare would eventually lead to “comprehensive medical care” from government for all Americans, not just the elderly. He may have been right.
So here’s why Obamacare is ground zero in the battle for America’s future. If it passes, not only will one-sixth of our economy pass under permanent government control, but Obamacare’s unknowable, astronomical cost will overwhelm our efforts to avoid fiscal insolvency. The stakes couldn’t be higher.