Now that many Americans realize the Obamacare bills in Congress
herald a government takeover of U.S. health care, they can't afford
Yes, their voices -- raised in town halls and other forums --
sent surprised liberals and "progressives" scurrying to regroup. A
few even repudiated the idea that a "public option" (that is, a
government health plan) is necessary to fix the system.
But now is the most dangerous phase, not the time to celebrate,
for those of us who believe real reform doesn't involve more
Watch out. President Obama and the liberals on Capitol Hill will
come back, one way or another, with alternative paths toward their
Look for those routes to include:
Regrettably, history shows many Republican lawmakers --
conservatives included -- will fall for such ruses so they can vote
Of course, conservatives aren't against health care reform, no
matter how many times President Obama, the majority leadership in
Congress and big media say so. We're simply against their idea of
We are for a conservative vision of health care reform, one
based on principles emphasized for years by The Heritage Foundation
and others. It's a vision that springs from the traditional
American approach of gradualism and experimentation, rather than
the European approach of micromanagement and central planning.
Most Americans will share a vision, assuming they hear it
communicated, that includes these elements:
It's time, as President Obama makes his big push this week in a
speech to Congress, for more conservatives to talk boldly and
plainly about we're for -- expanding meaningful consumer choices
and control in personal health decisions. Conservatives can't
continue to allow liberals in government and the media to go on
parroting the absurd lie that we're "against" health care
What we're dead-set against, like so many Americans who spoke up
this summer, is the government-run plan demanded by liberals. That
phony "public option" would be used to undermine the private
coverage of millions. It has to go.
So does the "fall-back" gimmick floated in recent days by
President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid: an arbitrary "trigger" that forces the public
option on the states if a certain target isn't met by a certain
Right away, we can do some simple things to expand coverage. For
example, millions of uninsured Americans are eligible for private
insurance or programs such as Medicaid, yet don't sign up. Let's
provide tax credits or other subsidies. Let's make enrollment
Yes, conservatives must do more to address affordability. We can
take steps to encourage innovation, creativity and competition --
among the states as well as insurers and care providers.
Folks of good will in both parties already agree one early stage
should be creating "shopping malls" for affordable coverage in each
state. Consumers would get the information they need to "comparison
shop" among plans.
And today, with tax-subsidized, third-party insurance, everyone
has the incentive to spend more of someone else's money. No wonder
costs are exploding. So let's provide appropriate incentives.
For instance, we ought to convince employers to show employees
how much of their compensation comes as health insurance. We ought
to limit the tax "exclusion" for health plans, just as we limit tax
breaks for 401(k) plans or IRAs. The revenue would provide tax
breaks to taxpayers who need help to buy coverage.
Such reforms would encourage all of us to look into whether
employer-sponsored insurance is a good value -- or if fatter
paychecks and less costly fringe benefits are the better
We're more likely to get this right if the federal government
simply sets broad goals for coverage and removes obstacles
preventing states from trying different approaches. Allow
experimentation, then compare results.
That's American federalism. We unleashed it to achieve welfare
reform. And it's exactly the opposite of Washington lawmakers'
obsession with dreaming up delivery system "game changers" they can
impose from coast to coast, European style.
Yes, conservatives must address Americans' fear of losing their
insurance or of being trapped in their current coverage. And yes,
conservatives must address Americans' desire for transparency in
pricing, but without the government butting in and fixing prices --
which would wreck insurance markets.
Insurers will cough up more choices and more information when
pressed by competition and innovation.
Americans today consult Travelocity or Priceline in making
travel choices. What an American solution if we are able, before
long, to log in to a similar resource while making decisions about
our health and that of our children. William Shatner, call your
Stuart M. Butler, Ph.D., is Vice
President for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage
First Appeared in Townhall
Now that many Americans realize the Obamacare bills in Congress herald a government takeover of U.S. health care, they can't afford to relax.
Health Care Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Stuart M. Butler, Ph.D.
Distinguished Fellow and Director, Center for Policy Innovation
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