November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009 | Commentary on Health Care

House Bill Wrong on Values

It took the approval of an antiabortion amendment to get the House of Representatives to pass its historic health care reform measure. That's good news for the large majority of Americans who oppose the use of their tax dollars to reimburse for or subsidize elective abortions.

Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa., acted with commendable courage and persistence in pursuing this amendment, which maintains longstanding federal policy. Yet the celebration of this values victory has already been cut short.

House liberals, led by Rep. Diane DeGette, D-Colo., immediately announced they had signature pledges from 40 of her colleagues on a letter opposing any final health care bill that includes the Stupak- Pitts amendment. Offered a bill crafted behind closed doors by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership -- a bill that would force businesses and individuals to buy insurance -- these abortion advocates pledged to raze the whole edifice if elective abortion was excluded.

Indeed, these liberals are apparently prepared to overlook all of their successes in other areas -- because the House-passed bill remains a deep affront to values voters. Beyond Stupak-Pitts, the House bill gives voters concerned about social justice issues very little to praise.

For example, it creates a vast, new entitlement that will over time add crushing tax burdens on middleclass Americans. Earlier this year the Democratic Congress passed a major expansion of the State Child Health Insurance Program, which will crowd out existing private health coverage and make even middle-and upper-middle-income children eligible for taxpayer-subsidized insurance. This would include children in families with annual income as high as $80,000 per year. A common- sense proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to allow middleclass families to use SCHIP funds to purchase private health coverage was handily defeated.

The Pelosi bill is more -- much more -- of the same. Promoting more dependency on government largesse is, in fact, a key aim of the bill.

Among the prime values at stake are personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. One of the essential tasks of every citizen is to work and to provide for the essentials: food, clothing, shelter and health care. Our current system of funding health care -- through employer-based tax breaks that disproportionately benefit upper-income Americans -- has deprived millions of middle-class families of a full range of options if they don't or can't get health insurance at work. The Pelosi bill, with its reams of pages and stacks of reams of eventual regulations, will erode both family options and the virtue of self-sufficiency, which are essential for a strong society and a growing economy.

These same values, and the value of personal responsibility in health care, are likewise compromised by the Pelosi bill's control over benefit options and rating rules. Federal officials will make all of the key decisions on health care plans and benefits and medical procedures. Thus the bill essentially prevents individuals and families from associating with others who want to pursue healthy lifestyles, enabling them to pick the kind of lower-cost health insurance that they think is best for them and thus lower their own health care costs.

At the same time, individuals and families will end up paying for services they don't need or want in the federally supervised health care plans and, through their taxes, finance services to others to which they object on various grounds, including ethical or moral grounds. It isn't just abortion. There are other issues, including a range of expensive and controversial fertility treatments and more government regulation over decisions relating to end-of-life care.

The list could go on. For example, the House bill sets up a new federal center to create "comprehensive" sex education materials and standards. "Comprehensive" has long been a code word for the kind of contraceptive-oriented programs that, over time, steadily undo the moral values that measures like Stupak- Pitts are meant to preserve. They inject into the classroom a new set of "permissive values," ordained by government bureaucrats, for the next generation. Imagine what the fate of the Stupak-Pitts language will be a few years down the road under the educational regime the Pelosi bill intentionally expands.

The ultimate value question is this: Is it wise to weaken families, restrict their personal choices over health care, and undercut private nonprofits and transfer so much power to Washington? The bravery behind the Stupak-Pitts amendment shouldn't distract us from what values voters should realize is the obvious answer.

Charles A. Donovan is senior research fellow in the DeVos Center on Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. Robert E. Moffit is the director of Heritage's Center for Health Policy Studies.

About the Author

Chuck Donovan Senior Research Fellow
DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society

Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. Senior Fellow
Center for Health Policy Studies

First Appeared in the Centre Daily Times