The political winds have shifted dramatically on health care in the last two months. Suddenly, instead of hearing that legislation is inevitable, some argue that it can’t possibly pass. But that conclusion is premature, and the odds still favor passage.
The left’s previous strategy was to get the bill passed with as little discussion as possible. Now, along with a coalition of self-serving corporate interests, it is gearing up for a fight. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by unions and the trade association PhRMA on ad campaigns this fall.
This heavy promotion will manifest on the ground as well; the AFL-CIO just allocated $15 million for “mobilization and communication,” and legislation supporters are being coached on aggressively interrupting others at town halls as well as arriving in greater numbers and with more signage to affect media perception. Contrary to unsupported allegations, the efforts in opposition to the health-care legislation are relatively modest, largely voluntary, and funded entirely by individuals.
Most importantly, health “reform” is the must-pass item for this administration, even more so than cap and trade or card check. And Democrats have clear majorities in both houses of Congress, so they can pass legislation of some kind if they can ever pull their party together.
Republicans augment the chance of passage with their desire to be “bipartisan.” The Democratic strategy is to take off the table particular proposals that stir up public outrage-items like the public option, end-of-life counseling, or mandatory coverage of abortion services. That will be the excuse for those Republicans who want to seem “reasonable” to come over. The media will act as though the compromise bill is fully centrist. It won’t be.
There are many legitimate concerns raised by these massive plans, and what you hear depends on who you ask. If you ask men, they tend to be most concerned about the legislation’s cost and the long-term effect of government controlling such an enormous share of the economy.
If you ask women, they worry about the risks of delayed care and the intrusion on their choices. If you ask the elderly, it is the idea of being pushed to quietly accept the pains of old age and settle for the palliative pill rather than the new hip.
All these concerns are real and matter. But the larger point is that Democrats aren’t proposing a subsidy to enable people to get the care they need. Rather they want to shift decision-making authority from the American citizen to the government bureaucrat.
These proposals are yet another manifestation of the no-growth, redistributionist mindset, combined with an elitist, authoritarian philosophy of government. To buy into them and ignore the reality they’ve produced elsewhere is to love humanity more than human beings, and value utopian ideals of equity over the tremendous individual costs they inflict.
In these proposals, human beings aren’t individuals with freedom to contract as they see fit and make their own best judgments, but interchangeable widgets for whom rules should be fashioned and enforced based on age, or quality of life, or some other metric. Bureaucrats would evaluate whether one is young enough to warrant a pacemaker or a hip, or sufficiently long gone from a hospital to justify readmission. Medicine would become a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy, not an art, in which the physician would face real risks for deciding that the bureaucratically approved “effective treatment” isn’t what works in a particular case.
It makes no sense to try to achieve a bipartisan consensus when the fundamentals underlying the Democratic approach are so contrary to the entire foundational idea of who we are as Americans. We’re the country that believes that individuals have the right not to have their decisions interfered with, and that individuals are best able to make those decisions that most affect their life and happiness. Nothing could be more central to that than the ability to control one’s own health and the health options of loved ones.
There is much that needs reforming in health care, and everyone wants to make sure that those who are genuinely uninsured because of pre-existing conditions, for example, have access to coverage and care. But the Democratic proposals use those real problems as a stalking horse to achieve very different goals. Would-be Republican deal-brokers should stand aside. They need to understand how the rest of us see this: That this is not just about the normal compromise of politics, but the core of what America is and will be.
Once the left’s health-care vision is in place, it will be almost impossible to undo. If this takeover isn’t worth resisting, what is?
Mrs. Higgins is chairman of the Independent Women’s Forum.