As was promised in the first part of my pre-election week column, I wanted a chance to delve a little bit further into a few (or really, just one) of the bloated government initiatives that, if elected, Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson would be fighting against. That list is a long and troubling one, consisting of Orwellian documents like the National Defense Authorization Act and the Patriot Act and practices like No Child Left Behind, which, in its attempt to create a homogenous education system has actually stunted the growth of our schools and our students throughout the nation. But perhaps the most controversial of them all (and the most relevant to the current election) is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare.’
Obamacare, on the surface, sounds appealing to a lot of people. The intent is to decrease the costs of healthcare and to increase insurance coverage among citizens, but the route the initiative takes to accomplish those tasks has shaky implications at best and the execution is blatantly unconstitutional. The question is not whether healthcare costs are out of control: both Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, and former Republican Primary candidate, Dr. Ron Paul, have said as much, but the answer to the problem will not be found through further government intervention. Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare in June, Paul laid out precisely why the initiative is bound for failure.
“Supporters of Obamacare are willfully ignorant of basic economics,” Paul said. “The fundamental problem with healthcare costs in America is that the doctor-patient relationship has been profoundly altered by third party interference. Third parties, either government agencies themselves or nominally private insurance companies virtually forced upon us by government policies, have not only destroyed doctor-patient confidentiality, they also inescapably drive up costs because basic market disciplines—supply and demand, price sensitivity and profit signals—are destroyed. Obamacare, via its insurance mandate, is more of the same misdiagnosis.”
That “insurance mandate” requires United States citizens to purchase healthcare coverage and institutes a penalty tax if they fail to comply. Not only does this forceful technique directly contradict certain freedoms laid out in the Constitution, it also precludes any opportunity for free market mechanisms to repair the problem. As Paul explains, the key to lower costs is to let the free market (and the relationship between a doctor and their patient) dictate the value of health services. His vision is one where healthcare exists on a separate plane from both government and third-party interest groups, where doctors and patients are allowed to cultivate a meaningful relationship, away from governmental red tape and “regulation,” and come to a dually-beneficial agreement concerning the value of services rendered. Without this mechanism in place, service costs essentially lose their reference point and begin a meteoric rise. Government and third party intervention destroyed this mechanism in the first place: how can Obama expect more of the same policies to restore it?
A further mandate demands that business owners pay health insurance for all full-time employees, a requirement that will sound fresh and attractive to young people entering the workforce…that is until they consider that businesses (especially small entrepreneurial ventures) are cutting back full-time staff and reconsidering expansion in response. Lost jobs in the small business sector and further blows to an already volatile economy don’t exactly fit with Obama’s plans to revitalize the job market, but then again, according to our President, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that! Somebody else made that happen.”
But perhaps the most frightening (and misunderstood) factor of the whole Obamacare mess is where it will leave the doctors. While the healthcare bill aims to increase the number of patients able to receive care (and in connection, the number of jobs available for doctors), any massive influx of this kind would actually result in a dire shortage of medical professionals and a legitimate traffic jam of patients; furthermore, Obamacare would add an estimated 19.6 million patients to the Medicaid program, another misguided government initiative that, according to Heritage.org, only reimburses doctors, on average, “56 percent of the market rate for medical procedures.”
Maybe it’s because my sister is currently finishing up medical school, or that my girlfriend’s mom had to go through a decade’s worth of college and post-grad programs to become an Orthodontist, but I certainly do not think that slashing the salaries of medical professionals is the way to go here. If we expect to fill the healthcare positions that this bill will, supposedly, generate, then we need to respect the brilliant people who are willing to sacrifice the better part of their young adult lives to slave away in the classroom, hit the books every night, learn the myriad of complexities that their prospective medical fields require and dig themselves a tunnel of personal debt in order to provide the kind of care that we need. Reimbursing those doctors 56 percent? That’s highway robbery. And while many doctors have simply vowed to stop treating Medicaid patients for this reason, doesn’t that action go completely against the idea of “increased healthcare” altogether?
Who is going to run the medical school gauntlet and plunge themselves so deeply into debt if they can’t even afford to help the patients waiting on the other side? Who can we ask to put forth that much effort if the medical profession is no longer the prestigious and high-paying one that it used to be? Sure, we can direct blame away from Obama and point it at the equally out-of-control education costs, at the way federal student loans have made the sky the limit on tuition fees and at how those fees have made becoming a doctor a quarter-million-dollar proposition, but then the question becomes a fairly easy one: do we really want the same entity that has so completely mismanaged our education system and its costs to be controlling and regulating our healthcare industry? The answer, I’d hope, is a resounding “No.”