My sample column for The State Press, ASU’s student paper:

Well, I think I hear the fat lady. With the Democrats poised to seal health care reform on Christmas Eve, this seems a good time to consider why this bill is a huge step in the wrong direction for the United States. What could I be talking about? The Obama administration has assured us that the government can reverse its record of being inefficient compared to the private market and provide insurance for more people. Let’s see if they come through.

Remember that the objective of this legislation was to reduce health care costs. The Congressional Budget Office, though, has estimated that the reform will cost $871 billion over the next decade, without the perverse incentives I will talk about. So the lowest possible cost to taxpayers of a bill that was supposed to lower costs is almost $900 billion.

But we’ll get better care for that money, right? The media is always telling us that our health care system is much worse than other countries’, citing life expectancy. But an August 2008 study in the Lancet Oncology Journal shows that the US has higher cancer survival rates and longer life expectancy after detection in similar stages than European countries, a clear indicator of good care. Studies on other serious illnesses are underway and suggest the same results. Considering the higher incidence of obesity and smoking in the United States, the life expectancy rankings are, not surprisingly, skewed. Moving toward government-run health care will start to erode our success in these areas.

In addition to weakening our treatments, the money we spend on health care will not be as effective. Proponents talk about how involving government will lower costs, citing a lower percentage of Medicare costs for administrative expenses. But this, too, is misleading. Medicare serves an elderly population that has very high average costs; the administrative costs per recipient were 25% higher for Medicare than private insurers from 2000-2005, according to Susan Fu from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and considering Medicare spends almost nothing preventing fraud (and is exploited for $60 billion a year) this is especially striking. So for customers of health services, it seems that the quality of care for serious illnesses will decrease and the amount of money needed to accomplish those procedures will increase, not to mention costing the already-overburdened government almost $900 billion. Now that sounds more like bureaucracy to me.

And what about the insurance companies and doctors? Well, with the government’s expanded program regulating prices to keep them low, there will be lower wages. This leads to the shortage of doctors that results in waiting times in Canada and elsewhere. Insurance companies will suffer as well because of the bill. Restrictions on excluding certain high risk people and requirements to cover procedures that are sometimes unnecessary will cause insurance companies to raise rates to maintain margins, causing fewer people to buy insurance, lowering profits and raising costs. Now is the time to ask: is this really what we want?

First, we have to remember that the objective of this legislation was to reduce health care costs. The Congressional Budget Office, though, has estimated that the reform will cost $871 billion over the next decade, and that is without all of the perverse incentives which I will talk about next. This means that the lowest possible cost to taxpayers of a bill that was supposed to lower costs is almost $900 billion.

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