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Why We're 'Crazy' About Health Care Choice

Opinion Editorial
January 29, 2010

By Linda Gorman

Sentinel Editor Dave Perry dismisses the Colorado Right to Health Care Choice Initiative as “crazy” and says its supporters “clearly have lost” their minds (Opinion, January 21).

The Initiative would prohibit Colorado government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

Mr. Perry thinks that mandatory insurance is justified because “those without health insurance are driving up the cost of health care for every American.” But these added costs are trivial compared to the amount that mandatory insurance would increase premiums and taxes.

According to a 2008 Urban Institute study, “Private insurance premiums are at most 1.7% higher because of the shifting of the costs of the uninsured to private insurers.” In Colorado this was about $85 annually per insured person in 2008. “Uninsured patients actually pay a higher proportion of their emergency department charges than Medicaid does,” says Renee Hsia, an ER doctor and co-author of a 2007 peer-reviewed study.

To provide mandatory coverage, ObamaCare expands Medicaid. Medicaid already increases your insurance premiums. “Inadequate reimbursements by programs such as Medicare and Medicaid increase the annual cost of covering a family of four by $1,788,” reports Bloomberg.

Mr. Perry says ObamaCare would benignly “require everyone in the country to sign up for either free Medicaid, cheap Medicare,” or “a cheap or expensive private policy.”

Mr. Perry’s “free Medicaid” costs $3 billion each year, more than $850 per Coloradan filing a tax return. Under ObamaCare, Medicaid spending would increase by an estimated billion dollars from 2014 and 2019.

Nor is Medicaid “free” for recipients. Its reimbursements are so low and its regulations so burdensome that doctors are five times more likely to refuse seeing new Medicaid patients than privately-insured patients. Medicaid also ensnares recipients in a poverty trap, Working toward higher-paying jobs can make them ineligible for “free” benefits and negate any increased income.

As for Mr. Perry’s “cheap Medicare,” its hospital fund is on track to be insolvent by 2017, according to the 2009 Medicare Trustees’ Report. Sustaining solvency for the next 75 years would require the payroll tax to more than double, from 2.9% to 6.8%, or an immediately cutting benefits by 53%.

Mr. Perry’s “cheap private policy” would not exist. Cheap policies become illegal under mandatory insurance. In Massachusetts politicians have so warped health insurance by using it as a vehicle of forced charity, that a policy costing $308 per month in Ft. Collins costs $862 a month in Worcester, Massachusetts. Massachusetts has banned individual policies with deductibles exceeding $2,000. They are not “credible coverage.” “More than 200,000 people with health insurance would have to buy additional coverage to meet proposed minimum standards,” reports the Boston Globe.

Mr. Perry does not mention that ObamaCare would force young people to pay higher premiums so that older people — who are often wealthier — can pay less. WellPoint estimates that the Senate Bill would increase premiums for younger healthy people by 123% and those in average health by 41%.

Finally, Mr. Perry claims that the AARP and AMA’s endorsements of “reform” demonstrate its merit. A more astute observer would note that both groups have government as their major customer. AARP sells insurance that plugs the holes in Medicare. By killing Medicare Advantage, ObamaCare will increase demand for AARP products.

The AMA enjoys substantial revenues from publications that show people how to bill Medicare. Fewer than three in ten American physicians are members. Three past AMA presidents and eleven state medical societies oppose the Senate Bill, as do professional societies representing Neurological Surgeons, Breast Surgeons, and General Surgeons.

Along with stopping mandatory insurance purchase, the Right to Health Care Choice allows people to buy more affordable policies sold in other states. Thirty states have less expensive small-group premiums than Colorado. If governments did not shield insurers from interstate competition, “12 million previously uninsured” Americans would have coverage according to University of Minnesota economists.

You have the right to buy the best available insurance policy for you and your family. You also have the right to donate to charities of your choice. The Health Care Choice Initiative would protect you from politicians who want to deprive you of choice and increase your insurance premiums and taxes.

What is so crazy about that?

This article was originally published in the Aurora Daily Sentinel, January 29th, 2010.