August 24, 2009

August 24, 2009 | Commentary on Health Care

Obamacare Would Shortchange Hispanics

For most Members of Congress, the month of August is typically a time to relax, unwind and catch up on reading while taking a break from the humidity of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately for them, this isn't a typical August.

Before heading home to their congressional districts, Members of Congress sparked a fierce debate on how best to reform our country's health care system. And in town hall meetings across the country, the frustration is palpable. Americans are upset that lawmakers seem to be rushing to overhaul our country's health care system without carefully considering the potential costs -- or the real possibility that this could open the door for an even more intrusive federal government.

Beyond the very important concerns of costs and a more powerful federal government, Hispanics have another reason to be alarmed if Barack Obama and his allies are successful in dramatically overhauling our country's health care system. Upon careful review of the various proposals floating in the halls of Congress, it's painfully clear many Members of Congress are convinced that they are best equipped to decide for Hispanics what health care plan works best for them.

Instead of empowering Hispanics by providing them with a menu of private health care plans to choose from, Washington politicians are lobbying the Hispanic community to support a public plan. A public plan is simply a fancy term to describe a government-run insurance plan that could mean longer wait lines for service. Instead of debating the projections that a public plan would reduce private insurance options, advocates for a public plan often resort to playing on emotion, citing the number of uninsured in our country.

Indeed, our health care system is in serious need of repair. And despite what you may have heard, conservatives in this country are committed to insuring the millions of Americans who lack health coverage. The difference is that conservatives want to empower individuals -- not the government.

Instead of a public plan (which would inevitably crowd out private insurers, as a study by the non-partisan Lewin Group shows), consumers should have a menu of private options to choose from so they can decide which plan works best for them. In fact, this health insurance reform plan closely resembles what Members of Congress use to choose their health care plan. Curiously, public plan advocates in Congress fail to mention that they themselves can choose from more than 250 health plans that don't include a single public option.

In fact, Hispanics especially would be shortchanged, because the current bills from Congressional leadership wouldn't change the current employer-based system. Instead of revising the tax structure to allow individuals to buy their own insurance instead of taking what's offered by an employer, politicians want us to cede even more power to faceless Washington bureaucrats.

For Hispanics, this is especially important because of many change employers quite often. As my colleague Robert Moffit recently wrote in an extensive study, "portability of health insurance policies -- enabling individuals to keep their coverage when they change jobs or maintain coverage through life changes -- would be key to stabilizing health insurance markets and dramatically reducing the numbers of the uninsured, especially among blacks and Hispanics."

Beyond the real concerns on how the proposed health care overhaul will cost our country more than $1 trillion in the next 10 years (and further add to our deficit), Obamacare fails for what it lacks: real reform while empowering individuals.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Israel Ortega Contributor, The Foundry

First Appeared in El Diario La Prensa