In a recent op-ed (Statesman, October 14, 2009), Senator John Cornyn pointed to the most egregious subterfuge in the debate over the nationalization of health care. Sen. Cornyn wrote: “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it will cost $829 billion, but when it’s fully implemented, the Senate Budget Committee estimates the real cost to be $1.8 trillion.”
The Administration has claimed, along with the plan’s most virulent advocates on Capitol Hill, that the takeover will actually save money, some $81 billion. One would have to completely suspend disbelief that another multi-hundred billion dollar program would save taxpayer money. This is a falsehood, of course, and exposed even more so by the Senate Budget Committee’s figures that are more than double the CBO estimate.
Indeed, the Committee’s figures seem much more realistic than those regurgitated by the Administration: The long history of government health programs reveals that early estimates of the costs do not match the reality of actual spending.
The Wall Street Journal recently (October 20, 2009) summarized and documented the problem. “In 1965, Congressional budgeters said that [Medicare] would cost $12 billion in 1990. Its actual cost that year was $90 billion…The rate of increase in Medicare spending has outpaced overall inflation in nearly every year (up 9.8% in 2009), so a program that began at $4 billion now costs $428 billion.”
This experience is worth a look. Programs are always undersold in terms of cost but oversold in terms of effectiveness. Whether one accepts the CBO or the Senate Budget Committee figures (or some estimate in between), no one even attempts to argue that the uninsured problem will abate even after the latest government intervention. Sen. Cornyn cites a 25 million figure that seems largely without dispute demonstrating that because of either temporary circumstance or choice the uninsured will remain a vexing policy predicament regardless of how much is spent.
But the amount spent by government on health care has serious consequences. When critics of the current state of health affairs in America repeatedly complain of raising health care costs, they always nearly fail to mention the inflationary pressures of government-run and subsidized programs, and its long-term impact on federal income tax payers. Further, nary a word is mentioned about the host of new government workers that will have to be hired to oversee and manage the health care takeover with all the long-term liabilities they would present.
There are simpler, less costly solutions to the dire problem of health care in America. Newt Gingrich, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and many others have offered systemic recommendations that don’t rest on the demonstrably flawed premise of a government seizure of health care. Regardless, advocates of state-sponsored intervention should be more forthcoming with taxpayers about the long-term costs and shortcomings of their proposition.