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Bienvenido to Obamacare

The Obama administration has unveiled its new Spanish-language website, Cuidadodesalud.gov, as a companion to HealthCare.gov, to fully inform Americans about the new goodies in the Obamacare legislation that the President signed into law in March.

In an op-ed that ran Wednesday in several Spanish-language newspapers across the country, including New York's El Diario La Prensa and Los Angeles’ La Opinion, the President declares, “For too long our health care system has failed too many Americans, with Latinos among those most affected.” In response to which, some might paraphrase the great humorist P.J. O’Rourke: If you think governmental failure is bad, wait till you see governmental success.

Now for six observations on the new site, and the policy behind it:

First, my Spanish is not very good, so I would never know, but let’s hope, for the Obamans’ sake, that there’s no translation boo-boo on this new site--no repeat of the Russian “reset” fiasco which so embarrassed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year.

Second, we can note that the bilingual-ization of America proceeds apace. The easier we make it for Americans to live in this country without knowing English, the less likely we are ever to achieve the "unum" the oneness, or unity--that the Founders envisioned in the national motto, "e pluribus unum." Indeed, looking at Cuidadodesalud.gov, one immediately wonders why Aleut, Tagalog, and Serbo-Croatian were left out--but maybe those websites are coming.

Third, even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 explicitly excluded illegals--chalk up one victory for the opposition Republicans, aided by scared Democrats--the Cuidadodesalud.gov is illegal immigrant-friendly. 

In his op-ed, Obama assures readers that the Spanish-language site “does not collect or store any personal information”--so don’t worry, folks, nobody’s going to ask your for your papers. 

Moreover, the president adds, “The new law supports the doctors and patients at community health centers and local clinics.” We might ask: Who thinks, deep in the barrio, that anyone is going to be turned away? 

Perhaps these needy patients shouldn’t be turned away--doctors, after all, must answer to the Hippocratic Oath, as well as demands of their merciful conscience--but if that’s the case, then the authors of Obamacare should have been more honest: This is a bill for covering everyone, legal and illegal, one way or another. And such extra costs should have been factored into the budget.

Fourth, some provisions of the plan are likely to be popular among Hispanics, at least in the short run, and we know this because some of the provisions are popular with the American people as a whole. As Obama writes, “The law also takes steps to end the worst insurance company abuses . . . Starting this month, the new law prohibits insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick . . . and prohibits insurers from denying children coverage because of a pre-existing condition like diabetes.” Now that’s a popular provision--at least for now. According to a New York Times poll taken in April, a whopping 81 percent of Americans support such guarantees of coverage.

Fifth, only time will tell how this health care law works out, cost-wise and care-wise. What happens, for example, if the private insurance companies have to cover everyone? The short answer is that they will raise their rates; indeed, they already are raising them, by double digits across the country. Such increases will surely increase public pressure to control those rate increases, or maybe it will rekindle the effort to enact a “public option” for healthcare--which was, of course, a key liberal objective all along.

Sixth, just last month, we got a glimpse into the likely future of national health care: The headline in The Dallas Morning News read, “Pelosi pulled strings to let dying Dallas lawyer Baron try experimental cancer drug.” The piece detailed the story of Fred Baron, a well-known Dallas-based trial lawyer and major Democratic donor; Baron was the finance chairman of John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign.

But back in 2002, Baron was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. And by October 2008--months after Edwards had abandoned his campaign in disgrace--Baron’s doctors at the Mayo Clinic were telling him that he had just a short time to live. The only possible hope, Baron was told, was a drug called Tysabri. But there was a problem: Tysabri was FDA-approved for other diseases, but not for Baron’s cancer. The manufacturer, Biogen Idec, mindful of lawsuits -- Baron was, after all, a “king of torts”--and also mindful that other patients needed the drug for approved diseases, refused to let Baron have the dosage. Whereupon Baron went to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who secured the drug for Baron. As it happens, Baron died anyway, late in 2008.

In terms of the larger policy and political implications, one can quibble over the rules set by both FDA and Biogen, but nobody can quibble over Pelosi’s power--she’s got it, and she uses it. She overrode all objections to deliver the medicine to her bigshot ally and supporter.

That’s the reality of a hyper-politicized system: Ordinary folks, of all ethnicities, will get the bureaucratic runaround as they die, while the well-wired will get special treatment. That’s a two-tier system--or, as one might say in Spanish, sistema de dos niveles. I am not sure that’s a completely accurate translation, but it’s close enough for the way that government really works.

James P. Pinkerton is a writer, Fox News contributor and the editor/founder of SeriousMedicineStrategy.

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James P. Pinkerton is a Fox News contributor. He worked in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is also the editor of CureStrategy.org.