Kneale: Save ObamaCare — by Killing It
President Obama's health-care revolution is dying before it hits the House floor. Now killing Obamacare is key to saving any semblance of health-care reform.
Instead of whipping this dead horse, the Obama Posse should wage a broad retreat and return with a spare, stripped-down, less-is-more plan.
Especially worrisome for the rookie in the White House, this ailing health plan has ignited a far broader and higher-stakes fight over how much government we really want, and what kind.
Do you really want the feds forcing you to buy insurance and taxing your family almost $4,000 a year if you refuse or decide you can't afford it?
That's what happens when health coverage--a personal responsibility of each of us--is transformed into an obligation of government, which now supposedly must provide it for all of us.
We simply can't afford it. Rather than aim at all 300 million of us, an ObamaLite overhaul should narrow the target to two groups:
First: The 15 million or so Americans who are the Truly Uninsured: they want coverage, can't afford it and don't qualify for government help. So let's give them some help.
Second: the 12 million who buy individual freelance policies rather than get coverage on the job. They need easy online access to a newly formed marketplace with interstate competition among the nation's 1,300 private insurers.
Wait a minute--we have 46 million uninsured, based on the latest U.S. Census data. Why help only that first one-third? Because, among all the uninsured, one-third are people who could afford insurance but elect to take the risk of going bare.
Which is their right--until Bam & Co. take it away as the Baucus bill would do.
Another one-third of the uninsured already qualify for government help a la Medicare (for the aged) or Medicaid (for the poor). They just haven't signed up because they're too proud, lazy or clueless--or they are illegal aliens.
This scandalizes Democrats, the notion that two-thirds of the uninsured are partially at fault for their own going-bare status.
The other night, two liberal Democratic congressmen, Anthony Weiner of New York and Robert Andrews of New Jersey, accused me of passing along bogus statistics on this score.
They called the figures "hearsay" and "made-up." But it turns out the figures come from Congress's own non-partisan Congressional Research Service. Take a look at how Rep. Andrews responded (in the video); suffice it to say he refused to apologize.
It would be one thing if Obamacare's universal, mandatory coverage would actually lower health costs. But it won't. Covering more people will simply result in higher costs for more drugs, more devices, more surgeries and more visits to the doctor and the hospital.
That's why the less-is-more plan should hold sway.
After narrowing Obamacare at the start to just the Truly Uninsured--the 15 million lower-income folks who want coverage but don't qualify for government help—we also should make them pay some portion from their own wallets.
For them, Obamacare could cover, free of charge, catastrophic care and chronic care (for five often preventable diseases that pose over half of all costs: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and pulmonary disease).
That "doughnut" would leave recipients to cover the hole in the middle: regular doctor visits for routine ailments and maintenance.
One big cost problem we already have is a function of too much insurance.
Some 50% of all healthcare costs already are paid by government. Employer health plans cover the other biggest chunk. And only a sliver of the total cost is paid directly out of our own pockets.
If that personal portion went up, only then would we behave as tougher, smarter shoppers and worry more about keeping our own expenses down.