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Pilgrim: Americans wanted limited reform, not a radical overhaul

POSTED: March 28, 2010 12:30 a.m.
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Jim Pilgrim

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Without a doubt, for the past few years, Americans clearly wanted reform in health care. Something had to be done.

But in fact, most Americans have basically been satisfied with the health care they get,including the doctors they choose, the quality of treatments, the effectiveness of procedures they undergo and any surgery they might have. The care they get is generally excellent and second to none anywhere in the world.

Cost was the thing. Americans wanted reform that would address high and rising costs. Instead, they got a radical overhaul - passed over the opposition of most Americans - that swallowed one-sixth of the economy in one big gulp, a radical overhaul that piles bureaucracy on bureaucracy and tangles red tape with more red tape.

This so-called reform is packed with new government entities, new departments, agencies, commissions and all their bureaucratic kin, more than 150 if them.

Our current problems and the prospects for Obamacare need to be seen in this light: Our "private" health care system has come to be infused with heavy doses of government influence and control in recent decades.

Medicare reimbursements to hospitals have been under price controls for a quarter of a century and reimbursement to doctors for more than 15 years. Insurance companies were cast as the villains by the reformers, not taking into account that Medicare is the nation's dominant insurer and shapes many aspects of the system.

Like dealing with Medicare? Obamacare is Medicare on steroids, a bulked-up version of distorted pricing and disincentives that will deliver doctor shortages and slow innovation in pharmaceuticals, advanced equipment and the development of new life-saving techniques. Eventually, we'll spend a lot more time in waiting rooms in the doctor's office and will wait longer for needed treatment.

We're already are seeing shortages. Anyone moving to Gainesville or other cities looking for a new physician has found it is much more difficult than it was 15 years ago.

The political strategy for implementing Obamacare is diabolical. The Democrats are going to move slowly, given the opposition, so they don't frighten Americans or reinforce the idea that Republicans were right in warning of dire things to come. So initially, as the president pointed out, a number of Americans will get real immediate benefits. Mentioned most often is children being able to remain on their parents policies until age 26.

Before the November elections, such benefits will get a lot of attention. These benefits will be the deception of Obamacare. Americans won't yet see that their biggest concern - high cost - won't go away. For many, costs will go up substantially, but not immediately.

The big ticket items, such as huge increases in what Georgia and the rest of the states will pay for Medicaid, won't show up until after the 2012 presidential election. These unfunded mandates will threaten already stressed state budgets. This is why Gov. Sonny Perdue will appoint a special attorney general to join 15 other states in fighting Obamacare in the courts.

In the longer term, Obamacare will not only damage health care but also our economic recovery. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are in trouble. We cannot pay for them now and we're adding yet another entitlement.

Americans indeed wanted real reform based on a broad consensus. The 216 votes that gave us Obamacare were indeed a majority, but it clearly is not a consensus. Americans want reform that leaves them plenty of choice in doctors and treatment, one that continues to develop most of the world's new drugs and advanced equipment, and one that continues to supply plenty of doctors.

Republicans remain committed to delivering real reform, that will keep America as the world's leader in medical innovation, able to deliver first-rate care.

Jim Pilgrim is chairman of the Hall County Republican Party.




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