Published May 10, 2011
When Barack Obama and I first met he had already become president and was furiously erecting the government-controlled health care system that bears his name and I had already begun a very public crusade to save America from it. Fate would never reunite our mothers who grew up together as young girls, cousins and friends, after they were separated decades ago, but now their sons bridged a divide in our family that was created by decisions not our own. It’s not often that a president’s most vocal critic comes from his own family, but I believe the inviolable oath I took to my patients demands that I oppose ObamaCare.
Today, ObamaCare is on the ropes—in the courts, and in terms of public opinion. While the Supreme Court denied Virginia’s petition to hear its ObamaCare lawsuit on an expedited basis earlier this month, this case will soon be heard by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a more high-profile case, Judge Roger Vinson ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. This lawsuit, which was filed by more than half the states in the union and led by Florida, will be heard in the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta in June. And in poll after poll, it has become clear that more than one year after ObamaCare’s passage, the American people strongly reject it. The fundamental flaw at the core of ObamaCare is the mistaken belief that the government can spend your dollars more effectively than you can. This tragically pessimistic belief views all Americans with suspicion as either incompetent or unrighteous but either way in need of big-government control.
Sadly missing from the national health care debate was an honest discussion of the origins of our health care system’s shortcomings. Let me be clear, while we certainly have problems, America still has the finest heath care system in the world. That patients flee their government-run systems -- like Great Britain’s and Canada’s -- and flock to America for our medical miracles should be an obvious clue to not recreate their failures; obvious to everyone, that is, except ObamaCare supporters.
While the Constitution does not give the federal government the authority to interfere with our health care, the big-government types have been at work for decades and have, by any fair assessment, wreaked havoc. The first health care waiver was granted in 1929 when the American Medical Association successfully lobbied that Blue Cross be exempt from certain regulations and taxes. Thus began the era of crony health care where Big Government’s friends were more equal than the rest of us.
In the following decades, Republicans’ and Democrats’ health care intrusions fueled increasing costs which priced more and more Americans out of the market. Many of the problems we face today are a direct result of those bad laws. The 1942 wage controls (and later tax laws), for example, forced the devastating marriage of health insurance to employment. Ask anyone denied employment or trapped in a bad job because of a medical condition how well that’s working out for them. Meanwhile state insurance monopolies create artificial barriers to insurance portability, increase costs dramatically and are responsible for 1 out of 4 uninsured Americans. The list goes on and on and the big-government type’s solution to these bad laws is always the same: more laws!
To call ObamaCare a doubling down on these government failures is a probably a betrayal of basic math skills -- it’s more like a quadrupling down. ObamaCare mandates that every free citizen purchase state-sanctioned insurance while it increases taxes (on everything from tampons and tanning salons to gold and the sale of your home); it increases spending even more; it turns health insurance companies into public utilities; it eliminates proven free-market reforms and it sets in place the mechanism for health care rationing. What’s more, ObamaCare has been ruled unconstitutional.
The unkeepable promises of ObamaCare are, as we say in medicine, too numerous to count, and are already collapsing. You can keep your current doctor and your current insurance. No tax increases. No rationing. Reduce the deficit. Four million new jobs created -- “400,000 almost immediately.” Public hearings. These are the pathetic peddlings of false hope.
The President made yet another empty promise: if there was a way to solve our health care problems with the free market, he said, he’d be happy to do so. I’m calling his obvious bluff. It’s not just that free market solutions will work, it’s that they already are! Areas like Lasik eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and even medical tourism have seen medical costs decrease and patient satisfaction soar. There are numerous reform measures Americans deserve; key among them are these:
Tax Fairness. Allow Americans to purchase their own insurance without a tax penalty. This will put the patient in the driver seat and make the insurance companies answerable to you rather than your employer. If they don’t treat you right, fire them, just like you would your car insurance company, your cell phone service provider or your grocery store. They’ll get the message or go out of business.
End state insurance and licensing monopolies. Use the enumerated power of the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) to end the devastating state insurance and medical licensing boundaries that kill competition and drive up costs. We expect car insurance companies to compete across state lines; let’s force health insurance companies to do the same. We demand each state honor the other states’ drivers’ licenses; let’s do the same with medical licensing and force doctors to compete with each other.
Eliminate frivolous lawsuits. Democrats openly admit they avoided tort reform because they are scared to take on the trial lawyers. You pay a “lawsuit tax” on everything from Band-Aids to open-heart surgery. Consider this simple math: the average obstetrician’s malpractice insurance cost approaches $100,000 per year and they each deliver around 100 babies per year. That $1000 per baby “lawsuit tax” is on you.
I discuss these free-market reforms, the effects of ObamaCare and the history of government intervention in a new e-book essay called “First, Do No Harm,” which is part of Broadside Books’ “Voices of the Tea Party” series. I’m proud to call Barack Obama my cousin but my oath is to my patients and my loyalty is to liberty. You cannot choose your family but you can choose to stop them from tearing down the finest health care system in the world and turning America into a European-style social welfare state.
Milton R. Wolf, M.D., is a diagnostic radiologist, medial director and cousin of President Barack Obama. He is the author of “First, Do No Harm” (Broadside Books “Voices of the Tea Party” series).