Sunday, July 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich's To Save America 4: Health Care

In my latest reading of To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, Newt Gingrich critiques Obamacare and ACORN as well as argues (using examples) that big businesses support government regulation because that hinders their smaller competitors.  For the last point, I was especially intrigued by Newt's statement that Clarence Darrow (the famed criminal defense attorney and champion of the underdog) was a critic of the National Recovery Administration, which was part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, because Darrow thought that big business essentially wrote the NRA's codes.  See here for more information on this.

What I want to focus on in this post is health care.  Five points that Newt made especially stood out to me.  First, Newt says that Obamacare's tax on makers of drugs and medical equipment will make matters worse, for the businesses will simply pass on the cost of the tax to their consumers, resulting in higher health care costs.  Second, Newt notes that government "often tries to control costs by cutting Medicaid reimbursements to providers", and he says that "With 20 million Americans being pushed into Medicaid by the new law, this is an ominous sign of things to come" (page 95).  Third, Newt narrates that Democratic representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak demanded information on health insurance companies' business practices, and Newt sums up their implied message as "get on board with 'reform,' or we'll embarrass and investigate you until you do" (page 102).  Fourth, on page 116, Newt refers to Washington Examiner lobbying editor Timothy Carney's observation that "during the 2008 election cycle, the securities, health insurance, and pharmaceutical industries, and even many of the biggest oil companies, gave more money to Democrats than Republicans" (Newt's words on page 116).  And fifth, I talked recently about a provision of Obamacare that denies coverage to the purchase of over-the-counter medicine without a prescription (if I understand the provision correctly).  Newt appears to discuss this (or a similar) provision on page 119----the provision that (in his words) "prohibits the use of funds from Health Savings Accounts for over-the-counter medications."  The effect of this, Newt argues, is to "encourage Americans to buy expensive prescription drugs made by big drug companies."  Pharmaceuticals profit from Obamacare, Newt argues.

Here are some of my reactions to Newt's arguments:

1.  I was initially reluctant to read this book by Newt, since I had already read four other books that he wrote.  But I am actually liking this book because it is a well-documented and effective critique of President Barack Obama's policies.  I think that it's important to remember, however, that there's always another side to the story.

2.  What I am being further sensitized to as I read this book is how we are often being offered imperfect choices.  In terms of health care, the situation before Obamacare stank, but there are also provisions of Obamacare that stink, so what can we do?  In some cases, the provisions may be understandable, but they can have bad consequences.  For example, it's understandable that Obamacare has taxes, for money has to be raised to pay for it.  But Newt does well to argue that the taxes can make matters worse, as companies pass on the cost of the taxes to their consumers.  I hope, though, that Obamacare would help Americans to get their money back somehow, in the form of cheaper health care.  After all, taxes in Canada are higher than they are in the U.S. because of Canada's national health insurance system, but there are many Canadians who like that system because it takes care of their medical costs.

3.  Newt's concern that government health insurance tries to cut costs is a concern of mine, as well.  Granted, this is also the case with private health insurance, but the government doing it too makes me wonder if we should pursue other ways to bring down costs (i.e., tort reform) than putting more people into a government system.  At the same time, I have heard Canadians say that they may have to wait for certain treatments, but they do get treated----and in many cases they don't have to wait.  I know some who are on Medicaid, and they say that Medicaid is a pretty generous system.  And yet, when Medicaid eats up so much of states' budgets, there's continually a danger that it will be cut. Is it preferable for people to be at the mercy of this sort of system, or is there a better way: enable people to somehow get their hands on private health insurance that is affordable yet sufficient enough to meet their medical needs (if such insurance even exists or can exist)?

4.  Newt's book may sensitize me to the corruption and imperfections in the political system, on all sides.  At the same time, though, there are politicians who stand up to the health insurance industry, as he notes (albeit with disfavor).  Their strongarm tactics may be problematic, but I have to admire them for seeking to put to rest the insurance companies' obstructionist efforts to protect their profits by killing health care reform.  Moreover, Newt says that the insurance companies give more to Democrats, but perhaps that's because they fear the Democrats more than the Republicans and thus want the Democrats in their pockets.

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