WASHINGTON -- One job of presidents is to educate Americans about
crucial national problems. On health care, Barack Obama has failed.
Almost everything you think you know about health care is probably wrong
or, at least, half wrong. Great simplicities and distortions have been
peddled in the name of achieving "universal health coverage." The
miseducation has worsened as the debate approaches its climax.
There's a parallel here: housing. Most Americans favor homeownership,
but uncritical pro-homeownership policies (lax lending standards, puny
down payments, hefty housing subsidies) helped cause the financial
crisis. The same thing is happening with health care. The appeal of
universal insurance -- who, by the way, wants to be uninsured? --
justifies half-truths and dubious policies. That the process is
repeating itself suggests that our political leaders don't learn even
from proximate calamities.
He's telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to know.
Whatever their sins, insurers are mainly intermediaries; they pass along
the costs of the delivery system. In 2009, the largest 14 insurers had
profits of roughly $9 billion; that approached 0.4 percent of total
health spending of $2.472 trillion. This hardly explains high health
costs. What people need to know is that Obama's plan evades health
care's major problems and would worsen the budget outlook. It's a big
new spending program when government hasn't paid for the spending
programs it already has.
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