During the bruising and often inflammatory political debate over health care, reform advocates frequently condemned critics as dishonest or at least hyperbolic in their predictions of what “government-controlled health care” would be like. Concerns about rationing were dismissed as products of elitism and clearly-rigged cost estimates from the CBO (which must use assumptions dictated by Democratic Congressional leadership without regard to whether those assumptions are plausible or even possible) were trumpeted as proof-positive that health care reform would cover more patients for less money. Worse, accusations of racism, extremism, and other thought crimes were thrown freely and often with abandon. Reform advocates were on the side of justice and compassion, and everyone else was an irredeemable hater, unfit for polite company and unworthy of even basic civility.
What a difference a couple of months makes. It appears that the critics were right on target in many areas. It turns out that insurers are already adjusting to the new mandates in ways that will decrease patient choices. And another study reports that Texas doctors are refusing to participate in Medicare due to the inadequacy of government reimbursement rates — rates that the Obama Administration plans to cut even further as the core of its plans for cost savings in Medicare.
Moreover, critics are being proven right in their predictions that reform would lead to heavy new costs and a dramatic expansion of government control and rationing of the type that cause the Canadian and the British health care systems to buckle and their patients (the ones that can afford to) to flee to the U.S. As required by accounting rules championed by Congressional Democrats after the 2001 meltdown of Enron, large companies had to report the financial impacts of health care reform in their financial statements immediately when health care reform was enacted into law. The resulting reports from companies like Caterpillar and AT&T outraged leading Democrat Henry Waxman, who was convinced that the reports were political theater designed to disparage health care reform. Rep. Waxman scheduled hearings and sent out subpoenas in preparation for a political show-trial designed to call corporate officers on the carpet for daring to depart from the this-will-save-money narrative.
Then the hearings were abruptly cancelled. It turned out that the documents provided under Waxman’s politically vindictive subpoenas revealed an explosive potential backfire — many companies were considering eliminating their employees’ health care coverage entirely, as the financial analysis clearly showed it would be cheaper to pay the fines and simply dump employees onto government health programs. In short, the companies’ analysis showed that President Obama’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your coverage, you can keep it” might be a sham and that health care reform was exactly the Trojan horse pushing towards the heavily regulated and rationed single-payer system that critics had, to much derision from reform advocates, predicted all along. And the cost projections that relied on the presumption that the only new patients on the government rolls would be those who previously had no coverage whatsoever were revealed to be exactly the sham that critics had claimed.
All of this is becoming clear months and even years before the most substantial mandates of the complex health care reform plan even come into force. When the full force of the new regulations hits, initial indications are that even the worst predictions of critics might turn out to be short of the reality. For example, when it comes time to actually enact the cuts in Medicare reimbursement payments upon which most of the Democrats’ hopes for cost limits rest, the government will be presented with a Hobson’s choice between actually enacting the cuts (and driving most doctors out of the system, resulting in massively decreased access) or not enacting the cuts (and exploding the deficit even beyond already unsustainable projections).
Either way, the promises of Democrats championing health care reform were empty. And the contempt, name-calling, undifferentiated accusations of racism, undifferentiated accusations of extremism, and assorted other derision heaped on critics was often undeserved.