"We are God's partners in matters of life and death." -President Obama
For a conservative political junkie such as myself, the recent debate over the health care plan has been great fun to watch. Obama's poll numbers have been tumbling, conservatives have been mobilized, and somehow the Democrats are having difficulty passing things through a Congress where they control both houses with filibuster-proof margins. Having failed to rush a thousand page bill through by the original deadline of three weeks ago, it seems desperation has set in. On one side, you've seen a lot of people voicing their concerns about potential consequences. On the other side, you have people declaring that all those people with concerns are liars, or, as Obama recently put it "bearing false witness." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even coined the term "evil-mongers" to describe protesters (I am not making that up), and the White House has gone so far as to encourage supporters to report anybody who says something "fishy" about health care. (Again, I am not making this up.)
Especially odd is that it is near certain that the people declaring others to be liars have not actually read any of the several bills in question, which you'd think would be an important step when declaring that something is not in there. (House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) actually laughed at the idea that congressmen should have to read bills, a view shared by at least one of his colleagues). I haven't read them either, but I have followed enough to know that there is sufficient reason for concerns, such that the proper answer should be more than "you're a liar!" What follows is essentially a cheat sheet of reasons why the supposed myths are in fact plausible.
Covering illegal aliens
This is one of those things that would need to be explicitly excluded in the bill for someone to legitimately claim that they would not be covered, as illegal aliens currently take advantage of a wide range of American social programs, even without explicit legislative approval. Indeed, this was put to the test when Dean Heller (R-Nev) put forth an amendment in committee to explicitly require American citizen. It was voted down along party lines.
That right there is sufficient reason to be suspicious. If you need more, consider that anybody who uses the figure of "47 million uninsured Americans" is implicitly arguing for coverage of illegal aliens, as that number includes 10 million who aren't citizens, and half of those are illegal. It must be mentioned that President Obama himself has used this figure.
- Democrats vote down an amendment to require American citizenship to be eligible for proposed health care plan
Let us put aside for the moment the high probability that the courts would disregard the legislatures and require that any government plan cover abortion. In each of the three House committees and the one in the Senate, amendments were proposed to keep public plans from paying for elective abortions. They were all voted down by Democratic majorities.
In fact, the bill was amended on July 30 to explicitly authorize the government to cover abortion.
Moreover, we have video of Obama promising abortion in the public plan.
- Video of Obama promising to include abortion in his public plan.
- Bill explicitly authorizes abortion.
The argument over whether or not the bill would lead to a complete government takeover depends largely on whether or not you think government social programs tend to grow or shrink in size (hint: it's pretty much always the former.) It is certainly reasonable to think that the government program, being underwritten by tax payers regardless of whether or not it can make a profit, and probably exempted from most of the individual states' regulations, would compete unfairly with private insurance. But our prime example actually comes straight from President Obama:
"My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining…then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It's the Post Office that's always having problems."
It's quotes like that that make the opposition party wet themselves with joy as they thank Santa for such an early and beautiful present. For our purposes, let us briefly note with amusement that his argument boils down to "the post office sucks, and I want to make health care like that," and then move on the juicy ignorance at the center. For you see, competition with the Post Office is outlawed. 150 years ago, Lysander Spooner even tried to put it to the test by starting a business that delivered letters for less than half what the Post Office charged. The government responded by bringing legal action against him and putting him out of business. That Obama is not aware of how the Post Office has worked for the last century and a half does not bode well for his ability to predict the repercussions for his own plan.
But there's more. Many of the plan's backers have explicitly stated that they want the US to move to a single-payer program. Obama himself has explicitly stated that he is a proponent of single-payer, although he felt that it might take us some time to get there. Is it really that crazy to think that this is a stepping stone towards that goal?
The term "death panel" came from a facebook note left by none other than Sarah Palin. Democrats jumped on her hyperbole, and she responded with a more detailed note. In it, she cited a particularly troubling portion of the Senate bill which incentivized doctors to give their patients advice encouraging minimal end-of-life care, while voicing concerns about the rationing of health care that would be required by any viable government plan. She was vindicated not long after when the Senate pulled the provision in question from their bill on the grounds that it could be "misinterpreted or implemented incorrectly" (emphasis mine).
As for fears about government panels being set up to ration your health care, they have their origins in simple recognition of the fact that the only way for the government to provide universal health care and do so in a budget-neutral way is to outright deny a whole lot of expensive medical procedures. These fears have been further stoked by the rhetoric of President Obama himself. You can see this video of him telling a woman that maybe her mother should be given a pain pill instead of a pacemaker. Or you can think about what he might be describing when he says that we'll undertake a "very difficult democratic conversation” about how “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care," in the context of how it's probably not a "sustainable model" to give older people hip replacements, using his own grandmother as an example.
Or you can look at this booklet the Obama administration distributes to veterans enrolled in their own government health plan, which tries to steer people towards choosing to forgo treatment. Or this actual case of a woman on the Oregon health plan who was denied chemotherapy, but offered reimbursement for assisted suicide.
I could go on at much greater length citing those who have expressed the desire to reduce treatment for the old and handicapped, but this is just a cheat sheet, so I'll stop here.
- Video of Obama saying that perhaps an older woman should have taken a pain pill rather than gotten a pace maker.
- Oregon health plan denies woman chemotherapy, but offers to pay for assisted suicide.
- Death Book for Veterans