Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Assessing Sen. Ron Johnson's Op-Ed: 1-year anniversary of "ObamaCare"

On the one year anniversary of Health Care Reform (hereafter referred to HCR) being enacted, our state's newly elected senator, Republican Ron Johnson, wrote an editorial piece for the Wall Street Journal. In it, Johnson described how his own daughter "probably wouldn't have survived in a system where bureaucrats stifle innovation and ration care."

With a tagline like that, you could tell where this article was headed.

Johnson made several erroneous comments about health reform, including rehashing the baseless claim about death panels. So here is an annotated assessment of some of his comments, for your viewing pleasure (Johnson's quotes in gray, assessments of his rationale in yellow).

Today is the first anniversary of the greatest single assault on our freedom in my lifetime: the signing of ObamaCare.
Right off the bat, in the first sentence, Johnson screws up big time. It's difficult to understand why Johnson would see HCR as an assault on his freedom, though he's not the only one to have made this claim. No one's taxes are raised to fund this law, save for those that fail to get insurance (who are able to do so). Not exactly an assault on freedom, if you ask me -- other taxes are placed on people who don't purchase expensive goods as well. There are tax credits, for example, for homeowners, credits for couples with children...does that mean that renters' freedoms or a single person's freedoms are being taken away?

Johnson also leaves out a greater assault on his freedom, one that's more realistic: the USA PATRIOT Act, which allowed greater government involvement into the private lives of U.S. citizens, such as phone records, library checkouts, even sneak-and-peak home invasions. But something like that never crossed Sen. Johnson's mind, I suppose.
She wasn't saved by a bureaucrat, and no government mandate forced her parents to purchase the coverage that saved her. Instead, [Johnson's daughter's] care was provided under a run-of-the-mill plan available to every employee of an Oshkosh, Wis., plastics plant.
It's funny that Johnson touts his own company's plan as sufficient to save his daughter's life. It probably is -- but then again, Johnson is able to afford his own coverage. For five employees of his in 2010, however, and their dependents (up to 10 more family members total), the plan was apparently too expensive, as they had to enter the state's BadgerCare program. In the end, that's the real issue surrounding HCR -- not it's quality of care, but rather the ability of all to receive care, from their employers' plans or otherwise.
The procedure that saved her, and has given her a chance at a full life, was available because America has a free-market system that has advanced medicine at a phenomenal pace.

I don't even want to think what might have happened if she had been born at a time and place where government defined the limits for most insurance policies and set precedents on what would be covered. Would the life-saving procedures that saved her have been deemed cost-effective by policy makers deciding where to spend increasingly scarce tax dollars?

The belief that Johnson's own daughter would've been affected at all by HCR is a terrible assumption to make -- she would've had the same insurance regardless of whether or not "ObamaCare" was in place when she had the procedure performed. I'm glad his daughter is healthy, but his use of his family's story in a misleading way is a terrible manipulation of the issue of health care.

Furthermore, the only "government defined limits" created by this law is on the insurance companies that previously denied coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. There are no limits on consumers, no death panels ran by the government, only an abolition of REAL death panels that were in place within private insurance companies prior to the law taking effect.

Lastly on this point, the "scarce tax dollars" that Johnson is talking about is just plain wrong. Johnson believes we're spending more of our budget towards Obama's plan -- but even the non-partisan CBO pointed out that reform would cut the deficit by more than a trillion dollars. Johnson's claims about wasting away our scarce tax revenue are simply false.
I am convinced that ObamaCare was designed to lead to a government takeover of our entire health-care system, which is one-sixth of our economy. As I traveled around Wisconsin in the last year, I asked thousands of people a simple question: "Do you think the federal government has the capability of running one-sixth of our economy?" Only two people ever raised their hands.
Johnson's concern over the government "controlling" health care and one-sixth of the economy misses the point entirely: one out of every six dollars spent by average Americans goes toward health costs. Is that really a statistic that Johnson is proud of? It's ridiculous -- in the world's wealthiest country, the people are literally going broke trying to stay healthy. 60 percent of bankruptcies are a result of overwhelming health bills. If Ron Johnson is "ok" with that, he obviously needs to reassess his values.
It's not clear whether Sen. Johnson truly believes the tripe he spewed onto the Wall Street Journal or if he's saying these misleading statements (and lies) simply to continue the misinformation campaign against HCR. What IS clear is that Johnson's statements are irresponsibly dispelling this load of mistruths in an attempt to keep what used to be the status quo in place.

Johnson is perfectly satisfied with keeping things the way they were. I suppose for a millionaire, the threat of denial of coverage because you had acne or were raped isn't too frightening -- but for the rest of us, it's a reality we can't afford to go back to. Health reform wasn't perfect, won't correct all the problems we face, but it's certainly better than what we didn't have before a year ago.

Celebrate this anniversary in a positive light: for many, "ObamaCare" is a lifesaver.

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