Costs of Health Care Debacle Will Be High

Published March 31, 2010

The legislative victory of President Obama’s massive health care overhaul among Washington’s political class comes at a high cost for Wisconsinites and Americans forced to swallow this bitter pill.

This remake of one-sixth of our economy will exacerbate the very problems this reform effort sought to address. It will dramatically alter our deteriorating economic and fiscal conditions for the worse and may irrevocably impair the American identity.

Costs Pushed Upwards

Skyrocketing health care costs are drowning families, businesses, and governments in red ink—leaving millions priced out of the market and without coverage. This legislation—with its maze of mandates, dictates, controls, tax hikes, and subsidies—pushes costs further in the wrong direction.

Premiums in the individual market would rise from 10 percent to 13 percent for families. Our debt and deficit crisis—driven by $76 trillion in unfunded liabilities—would accelerate from the creation of a brand new entitlement and an increase in the federal deficit by $662 billion, when the true costs are factored in.

National health expenditures will increase by an additional $222 billion over the next decade, according the president’s own chief actuary, and $2.4 trillion in the decade after the new entitlement is up and running.

Massive Government Intrusion

The passion against this intrusion goes beyond the mind-numbing numbers. Health care affects each of us in an intimate and personal way. The American people’s engagement is driven by our deep aversion to the federal government’s unprecedented reach into our lives.

The entire architecture of this overhaul is designed, unapologetically, to give the government greater control over what kind of insurance is available, how much health care is enough, and which treatments are worth paying for.

The massive expansion of the federal government into personal health care decisions will drive providers out of business and force employers to dump their workers on to government-controlled exchanges. Because Washington doesn’t approve, millions of Wisconsin seniors will lose their Medicare Advantage plans and millions more will lose the consumer-friendly high-deductible health plans they enjoy.

There is another personal cost to this deluge of new government spending and control. Wisconsin remains in dire need of sustained job growth and robust economic recovery. This legislation will hit our economy with $569 billion in tax increases—tax hikes that will hit workers, families, and job-creators alike.

About Politics, Not Policy

The true shame of this debate is that there are real problems in health care that need to be fixed. Almost a year ago I introduced the Patients’ Choice Act to fix what’s broken in health care without breaking what’s working. I’ve spoken with Wisconsinites for years about patient-centered reforms that would make possible universal access to quality, affordable health care with the patient and the doctor—not the government or insurance companies—as the nucleus of the health care market.

These alternatives were ignored by Democratic leaders in Washington—and the concerns from Wisconsinites and an engaged American public were dismissed by Washington’s political class.

Paternalistic Ideology

The yearlong partisan crusade—right through its ugly conclusion—revealed that this debate was never about policy but rather a paternalistic ideology at odds with our historic commitment to individual liberty, limited government, and entrepreneurial dynamism. The proponents of this legislation reject an opportunity society and instead assume you are stuck in your station in life and the role of government is to help you cope with it.

Rather than promote equal opportunities for individuals to make the most of their lives, the cradle-to-grave welfare state seeks to equalize the results of people’s lives.

We must begin anew on mitigating the disaster from this health care debacle. Let’s repeal the costly missteps before they hit with full force. Let’s make certain we do not simply retreat to an earlier point on the same path to decline.

Let’s chart a new direction that will restore the promise and prosperity of this exceptional nation—and let’s do it together.

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan ( represents the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin. This column originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is reprinted with permission.