A Dangerous Cure: Seven Obamacare Health Myths

Stephen L. Bloom | Author, The Believer's Guide to Legal Issues | Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Dangerous Cure: Seven Obamacare Health Myths

Doctors start their careers with an oath: “First, do no harm.” Obviously, politicians don’t take an oath like that, because President Obama’s healthcare reform plan is the classic case of a “cure” that’s worse than the disease. But, tragically, misplaced belief in seven dangerous myths about the plan is deceiving many well-meaning people into supporting Obamacare: 

Myth #1: Everyone will have access to good healthcare.

It doesn’t take an economic whiz-kid to predict what happens when government gets involved in providing anything for free, or at a below-market price. The laws of supply and demand kick in and, next thing you know, more people want more of that thing. But, at the new low price, fewer people are willing to supply as much of that thing. So there is a shortage. And so there will be a shortage of medical care under the Obama plan. And when there is a shortage but prices aren’t allowed to rise, there is only one way to decide who gets the care: rationing. Some will get access to the care they need, but you may not.

Myth #2: Healthcare costs will be brought under control.

There is no economic or historical reason to believe more government entanglement in healthcare will lower the actual cost of providing the care. Yes, it is possible under Obamacare for costs to patients to be lower in some cases, but that’s only the cost billed to the patient and it’s not the whole story.  As proven time and time again by the government’s massive involvement in healthcare through existing Medicare and Medicaid programs, artificially low costs to patients only end up driving costs to taxpayers higher and higher. Even the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is warning that costs will skyrocket if Obama’s plan is enacted. Under Obamacare, costs will rise and you will pay.

Myth #3: Healthcare will be fairer.

Right now, the vast majority of us get all the healthcare we want. We pay for that care out of pocket or indirectly, through medical insurance. We have a giant safety net (Medicare, Medicaid, and related programs) to provide care for our poor, our elderly, and our children. Still, under the current system, a small minority of people fall through the cracks and have trouble getting care. Under Obamacare, everyone will have access to care in theory, but in reality, because rationing is always necessary in any economic system that won’t let prices do their usual job of deciding who gets what, some people will still fall through the cracks. But under Obamacare, administrators and bureaucrats will decide who falls through the cracks and you or your loved ones may be arbitrarily forced onto endless waiting lists or denied the treatments you need, even though you have diligently saved and planned to afford your own care.

Myth #4: Patients will have freedom of choice.

The notion that patients will have freedom to pick their own doctors, treatments, and procedures under a highly regulated government imposed healthcare system is simply naïve. Freedom is the opposite of what happens in every centrally planned government-run enterprise. Over the long haul, Obamacare will take away your rights to choose the medical care you want.

Myth #5: Our healthcare system will still be the best in the world.

America’s healthcare system has been so successful for so long that we’ve come to expect constant improvement. We’re accustomed to a never-ending stream of new discoveries, lifesaving advances, and miraculous treatments. But the driving force behind our astounding progress has always been the opportunity to earn profits, to be financially rewarded for successful innovation. Whether they know it or not, when short-sighted politicians like those supporting Obamacare say “get the profit out of healthcare,” they are really saying “get the innovation out of healthcare.” Without strong profit incentives, you can be sure American healthcare will stop leading the way for the rest of the world.

Myth #6: We can afford Obamacare.

It’s hard to get a handle on the cost of an ever-changing plan so big that powerful Congressmen and Senators just laugh when asked whether they’ve read it, but reasonable estimates of the cost of Obamacare fall in the ballpark of $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, a trillion bucks). Our country is already in crippling debt, to the tune of $11 trillion. Businesses, municipalities, and states are already staggering under the weight of recession and declining revenues. Jobs are being lost and essential services cut. On the national level, our Federal Reserve is literally printing money in a desperate (and risky) last-ditch effort to keep our economy from systemic collapse. Now is simply not the time to launch the most expensive, most complex, and most intrusive government program in the history of our country. You can’t afford it. None of us can.

Myth #7: Healthcare reform is our most urgent need.

Even if we could afford to spend a trillion dollars, and even if we had a reform proposal that helped rather than harmed our healthcare system, would it be wise to spend that trillion on healthcare reform? Our healthcare system is already the envy of the world. Our life expectancies are already the longest they’ve ever been. We are already among the healthiest people ever to walk the planet earth. Meanwhile, children in other parts of the world are dying for lack of the most basic vaccines and medicines. Others subsist without decent shelter or adequate nutrition. At home, our own cities are increasingly rampant with violent crime, cutting short otherwise healthy lives. And much of the infrastructure that supports our economic prosperity (including, incidentally, our ability to provide and consume any healthcare at all) is crumbling around us. If you had a trillion dollars to spend, where could you do the most good with it?

Stephen L. Bloom, J.D., teaches economics and personal finance at Messiah College. He is a consultant at the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Central Pennsylvania and an estate planning and transactional attorney at the Pennsylvania law firm of Irwin & McKnight, P.C. A frequent media guest and speaker, he is author of The Believer’s Guide to Legal Issues (2008, Living Ink Books).

Publication date: July 22, 2009