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Opinion

If Uncle Sam becomes your doctor

The consequences would be severe. We can improve healthcare without busting the budget or rationing care.

By LAMAR SMITH / August 12, 2009



WASHINGTON

Americans are doing their homework on healthcare reform. And, unlike some members of Congress, they're reading the legislation, even though it's more than 1,000 pages long.

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They see that the numbers don't add up. They note the contradictory claims by the Obama administration and Democrat-controlled Congress. And they recognize the unintended consequences of the government controlling one-sixth of the US economy.

According to several recent polls, on key issues of access, quality of care, and cost, Americans don't support this government power grab.

A Quinnipiac national poll found that more than 7 in 10 Americans believe health reform will add to the federal deficit, contrary to President Obama's promise. They're correct. Analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation shows that the House bill that's being rushed through by Democrats would add $239 billion to the deficit in the next 10 years – and that's after raising taxes by $820 billion and cutting Medicare Advantage by $150 billion.

Americans are right to be leery of government-controlled healthcare that will increase costs, eliminate jobs through punitive taxes on small businesses, and put a government panel between doctors and patients.

I believe Congress should pursue reform, but the legislation pursued by Democratic leaders is equal parts faulty premise and flawed logic.

The figure often cited to justify this government intrusion into the private sector is that there are 46 million uninsured "Americans." However, when you omit noncitizens (9.5 million), individuals eligible for public programs but not enrolled, (12 million), the temporarily uninsured due to job change (9 million), and those who earn more than $84,000, but elect to forgo coverage (7 million), we arrive at about 8 million long-term uninsured. We can help these individuals obtain quality care for a fraction of the cost of what Democrats are promoting.

The other premise that Mr. Obama uses to justify his version of reform is that medical costs are destroying the economy and that this is unsustainable. We must stem the rising cost of healthcare, but according to the CBO, one of the bills in the Senate would do the opposite – it would increase healthcare costs by nearly $1 trillion.

Raising income taxes and threatening penalties for small businesses to fund what could amount to a government takeover of healthcare is a terrible prescription for a troubled economy. We need to close the deficit, strengthen the dollar, and prevent inflation – not hurt the small businesses that create 70 percent of our jobs.

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