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Health care in John Kerry's world

By Richard Ralston
web posted March 8, 2004

Americans of all political parties need to give close attention to health care issues in this election year. Regardless of how they intend to vote, they need to understand that health care is the primary cause of increased government spending. It confronts Americans with the greatest threat of increased government intrusion into their daily lives. Health care and politics are a toxic combination for a life and death issue.

The essence of John Kerry's attitude toward health care was evident in an interview he gave on February 25th to "Good Morning America." He decided to attack Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the only redeeming feature of the horrible Medicare Prescription Drug bill that was signed into law a few months ago. He indicated -- with a sneer -- that HSAs showed the Bush Administration only wanted to help "people with money." Senator Kerry said that, if elected, his policy would have the government provide health care to "people with no money."

Kerry: Thumbs up to more government in health care
Kerry: Thumbs up to more government in health care

In Senator Kerry's world, it appears, citizens who take responsibility for their own health care-and who put aside something to pay for it-are objects of his contempt. He evidently thinks that they deserve to pay Income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax on every dime they save to meet the health care needs of their families. Better to spend those taxes giving health care to anyone who meets a single qualification-having "no money."

This is a breath-taking division of the entire nation into two groups of people: those with money and those without money. It is, of course, ridiculous. Does everyone without health insurance have no money? If that is the case, how do they eat? Do they wear clothes? Do they make rent or mortgage payments? Do they own and watch a television set? If so, then what they lack is not money, but priorities and foresight. If not, wouldn't it be easier to just give them the money, rather than an expensive bureaucratic nightmare of government provided health care? This wouldn't do much for people that just don't give a damn about paying for their health care-but neither would anything else.

Health care can be expensive. Paying medical expenses and insurance premiums can be a struggle. Medical emergencies or temporary unemployment can make this struggle even more challenging. But helping people do this by reducing the tax burden on health care savings can provide much more real help than government handouts. It keeps it simple. You save your money, you save more because you don't pay taxes on it, and you spend your own money. Most importantly, with the advice of your doctor you make your own health care decisions. That is freedom. That is taking responsibility. That, in a word, is America. Or at least it used to be.

But in Senator Kerry's world, there are thousands of pages of regulations, rationing, and other limitations on what is actually available. There are price controls on drugs that won't ever come out of research because they cannot be paid for, and hundreds of forms. There are hundreds of thousands of administrators and cost reviewers, rationing controllers, payment processors, equipment purchasing approvers, medical record collectors, price controllers, physician inspectors, and medical police-all of whom get paid twice a month.

This sounds like Health Care Hell. It is. But for many politicians it is Paradise. Why? Because they want a world in which everyone has to depend on politicians for their health care. Such a world requires a total government monopoly on health care. That is why these politicians love "people with no money," from whom they want nothing in return but office and power. That is why the very idea of free, autonomous citizens taking responsibility for their own health care by paying for it from their own savings fills them with horror and contempt.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

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