Ronald Reagan astutely observed that â€œgovernment programs, once launched, never disappearâ€ and he concluded such programs are â€œthe nearest thing to eternal life weâ€™ll ever see on this earth.â€ The current debate over reforming the nationâ€™s health care system, and efforts at controlling in costs at both the federal and state levels, are proving the former President was correct.
Despite being handed control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the presidency in successive election cycles pledging repeal and replacement of the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, Republicans have been unable to do so. Minor changes were approved in the U.S. House, but the Senate failed to achieve unity even among Republicans.
Part of the reason is that the American Left ï¿½ï¿½" Democrats and their apostles in the news media ï¿½ï¿½" demonize even modest changes calling proponents everything from uncaring to racist. They view skyrocketing premiums and the slow motion collapse of the Obamacare exchanges as furthering their ultimate goal: a national single payer health care system.
Thus even attempting to slow the growth of federal health care spending has become an elusive goal. For example, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey had advanced a plan to slow the growth of federal Medicaid spending by gradually increasing the state share of benefit costs for able bodied adults. Keep in mind able bodied adults were never covered under Medicaid before Obamacare created an entirely new class of entitled recipients.
Note that Senator Toomey has not proposed eliminating those benefits. His plan would only gradually require states to begin paying the same share to that class of Medicaid recipients as they currently pay to other classes of beneficiaries of the program. He wants to slow the rate of increase in federal spending. As he points out, only in Washington, D.C. can slowing the rate of increased spending be viewed as a cut.
Similar problems in placing Medicaid on a financially sustainable footing plague state lawmakers. The state House has taken a step in the right direction by passing a bill that would require households of up to four persons with annual incomes exceeding $246,000 to pay an average Medicaid co-pay of just $50.00 per month.
Setting aside the valid question of why any household with a quarter of a million in income per year is even on a government health care program, asking for a $600.00 annual co-payment is eminently reasonable. State Representative Dan Moul (R-Adams), the billâ€™s prime sponsor, says that modest change would save the commonwealth about $6 million per year. That would help slow the rate of growth in state Medicaid spending and help put the program on a sustainable basis to serve the 1.2 million children who depend on Medicaid for health care.
For his efforts Moul, like Toomey has been excoriated by the Left. Toomeyâ€™s proposed changes have been denounced as â€œradical,â€ while Moul has been accused of staging a â€œmiddle of the nightâ€ political win. This despite the fact the sun was shining on the capitol dome when the House vote was taken.
The time has come for elected officials at all levels to ignore the over-heated rhetoric from the Left. The fact is Obamacare is in a death spiral, and with a budget deficit somewhere north of $1.5 billion state government cannot afford to continue paying for social services that increase at a rate of seven percent annually.
Minimal co-payments and work requirements for those with the physical and mental capacity to work are neither cruel nor unreasonable. In a more sane era, former President Bill Clinton ï¿½ï¿½" with bipartisan support ï¿½ï¿½" established a successful welfare-to-work program that reduced the welfare rolls and preserved those program for those truly in need.
A friend of mine is fond of the saying â€œquicker than the speed of light a privilege becomes a right.â€ That is what happens when government programs are created or expanded without regard for the economic consequences. Guardians of the welfare state believe every American has a right to ever-increasing government assistance regardless of the costs. Not only does that defy the laws of economics, but it ultimately will result in the collapse of those programs inflicting great pain on the very people such professors of big government claim to want to protect.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected]titute.org.)
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