Health care reform: the cure or the disease?

The proposed reform comes with a catch.

By Manuel Alex Moya

When Congress returns to session, its members will be faced with a vote on H.R.3200, the most wide-ranging health care reform legislation in the history of America. The President has claimed, “When it comes to the cost of our health care, then, the status quo is unsustainable. Reform is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

But before breaking out in celebration, it would be prudent to consider: What’s the catch? Will this legislation be the cure to what ails us, or is there another disease to endure down the road?

For example, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor said in an interview, “Health care is something all of us want to be able to access, no question. We want coverage….” But what if, as part of the effort to supply the nation with an affordable health program, the government required you to submit your waistline measurement on a regular basis, or responded to an emergency by telling you to wait in line behind the rest of the nation, even if you had the resources to pay?

This already exists in other parts of the world. For example, Japan’s health officials force anyone whose waistline is bigger than the government-approved size to undergo diet counseling. According to the Canadian Medical Association, “… More than 1 million are on waiting lists for treatment”. As a result, scores of Canadians have decided to come to the U.S. for emergency care, including pregnancies and brain surgery. Even Canadian politicians, such as former Québécois premier Robert Bouressa and Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, have sought U.S. health care.

Sound too Orwellian to implement in this country? Consider that under H.R.3200, nothing “shall be construed as limiting the authority of the Secretary” to decide whether your payments and services are “excessive,” “deficient,” or “efficient” (section 223). Further, the Secretary is the sole authority who can decide how many times you can be readmitted to a hospital (section 1151).

In a speech made to the American Medical Association, Obama said, “Building a health care system that promotes prevention rather than just managing diseases will require all of us to do our part.” But what if, in an effort to combat diseases like diabetes or obesity, the government monitored all food products, screened your menu for unhealthy items, and shut down your favorite restaurant for serving unapproved meals?

This may seem exaggerated, but it is already a reality in different parts of the U.S. Consider that in California, where Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a universal health insurance program, the state has restricted restaurants from using oils, butters, and other ingredients that the government deems too unhealthy. In Los Angeles, the City Council recently banned the establishment of fast food restaurants for the upcoming year. What about my freedom, you ask? You gave up your freedom when you asked the state to pay your insurance billthe government is in charge of your health now.

The pattern emerging is clear. All of the government’s reforms, be they policies to cut “social costs or fight disease, necessarily mean that the government will have more authority over our lives. This is no coincidence. The government possesses one thing that private industry does not: the ability to enact its policies by force rather than the consent of the customer. In this the government is fundamentally different from a private health care provider or insurance agency. Whereas the latter can only attempt to win your purchase through creative marketing and persuasion, the government can use force to make everyone behave as it deems best.

It is because of the government’s collective and coercive nature that everyone will be affected by H.R.3200, regardless of whether you choose to opt into the government’s program or not. So when you vote for more government health programs and government insurance policies that were formerly provided by private companies and individuals, what you’re really asking for is more governmental coercive intrusion and paternalism.

As Washington embarks on an unprecedented intervention into the health care industry, regardless of whether you personally choose to patronize the public “option” or not, we must realize that any government-sponsored “reform” means less freedom.

Manuel Alex Moya is an M.A. student in Social Science.