Montreal, April 15, 2010 • No 277


Ron Paul is a member of the U.S. Congress (R) representing the 14th District of Texas. These Texas Straight Talk were first published on March 22 and March 29, 2010.




Healthcare Reform Passes


by Rep. Ron Paul, MD


          Following months of heated public debate and aggressive closed-door negotiations, Congress finally cast a historic vote on healthcare late Sunday evening [March 21th]. It was truly a sad weekend on the House floor as we witnessed further dismantling of the Constitution, disregard of the will of the people, explosive expansion of the reach of government, unprecedented corporate favoritism, and the impending end of quality healthcare as we know it.


          Those in favor of this bill touted their good intentions of ensuring quality healthcare for all Americans, as if those of us against the bill are against good medical care. They cite fanciful statistics of deficit reduction, while simultaneously planning to expand the already struggling medical welfare programs we currently have. They somehow think that healthcare in this country will be improved by swelling our welfare rolls and cutting reimbursement payments to doctors who are already losing money.

          It is estimated that thousands of doctors will be economically forced out of the profession should this government fuzzy math actually try to become healthcare reality. No one has thought to ask what good mandatory health insurance will be if people can’t find a doctor.

          Legislative hopes and dreams don’t always stand up well against economic realities.

          Frustratingly, this legislation does not deal at all with the real reasons access to healthcare is a struggle for so many―the astronomical costs. If tort reform was seriously discussed, if the massive regulatory burden on healthcare was reduced and reformed, if the free market was allowed to function and apply downward pressure on healthcare costs as it does with everything else, perhaps people wouldn’t be so beholden to insurance companies in the first place. If costs were lowered, more people could simply pay for what they need out of pocket, as they were able to do before government got so involved.

          Instead, in the name of going after greedy insurance companies, the federal government is going to make people even more beholden to them by mandating that everyone buy their product! Hefty fines are due from anyone found to have committed the heinous crime of not being a customer of a health insurance company. We will need to hire some 16,500 new IRS agents to police compliance with all these new mandates and administer various fines. So in government terms, this is also a jobs bill. Never mind that this program is also likely to cost the private sector some 5 million jobs.

          Of course, the most troubling aspect of this bill is that it is so blatantly unconstitutional and contrary to the ideals of liberty. Nowhere in the constitution is there anything approaching authority for the Federal government to do any of this. The founders would have been horrified at the idea of government forcing citizens to become consumers of a particular product from certain government approved companies. 38 states are said to already be preparing legal and constitutional challenges to this legislation, and if the courts stand by their oaths, they will win.

          Protecting the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, should be the court’s responsibility. Citizens have a responsibility over their own life, but they also have the liberty to choose how they will live and protect their lives. Healthcare choices are a part of liberty, another part that is being stripped away. Government interference in healthcare has already infringed on choices available to people, but rather than getting out of the way, it is entrenching itself, and its corporatist cronies, even more deeply.

"If tort reform was seriously discussed, if the massive regulatory burden on healthcare was reduced and reformed, if the free market was allowed to function and apply downward pressure on healthcare costs as it does with everything else, perhaps people wouldn’t be so beholden to insurance companies in the first place."

Healthcare and Economic Realities

          With passage of last week’s bill, the American people are now the unhappy recipients of Washington’s disastrous prescription for healthcare “reform.” Congressional leaders relied on highly dubious budget predictions, faulty market assumptions, and outright fantasy to convince a slim majority that this major expansion of government somehow will reduce federal spending. This legislation is just the next step towards universal, single payer healthcare, which many see as a human right. Of course, this “right” must be produced by the labor of other people, meaning theft and coercion by government is necessary to produce and distribute it.

          Those who understand Austrian economic theory know that this new model of healthcare will cause major problems down the road, as it has in every nation that ignores economic realities. The more government involves itself in medicine, the worse healthcare will get: quality of care will diminish as the system struggles to contain rising costs, while shortages and long waiting times for treatment will become more and more commonplace.

          Consider what would happen if car insurance worked the way health insurance does. What if it was determined that gasoline was a right, and should be covered by your car insurance policy? Perhaps every gas station would have to hire a small army of bureaucrats to file reimbursement claims to insurance companies for every tank of gas sold! What would that kind of system do to the costs of running a gas station? How would that affect the prices of both gasoline and car insurance? Yet this is exactly the type of system Congress is now expanding in health insurance. In a free market system, health insurance would serve as true insurance against serious injuries or illness, not as a convoluted system of third party payments for routine doctor visits and every minor illness.

          While proponents of this reform continue to defy all logic and reason by claiming it will save money, I worry about cataclysmic economic events. Already investors are more reluctant to buy US Treasuries, fearing that the healthcare bill, along with other spending, will cause government debt to explode to default levels. I had the opportunity last week to address my concerns with both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, especially about the potential for the coming serious inflation. I am not optimistic that these important decision makers truly understand what is coming, why it is coming, and how best to deal with it.

          The Federal Reserve finds itself in an unprecedented and unenviable position. To keep up with government spending and corporate irresponsibility, it has increased the monetary base by nearly $1.5 trillion since September of 2008. Excess bank reserves remain at historically high levels, and the Fed's balance sheet has ballooned to over $2 trillion. If the Fed pulls this excess liquidity out of the system, it risks collapsing banks that rely on the newly created money. However, if the Fed fails to pull this excess liquidity out of the system we risk tipping into hyperinflation. This is where central banking inevitably has led us.

          The idea that a handful of brilliant minds can somehow steer an economy is fatal to economic growth and stability. The Soviet Union's economy failed because of its central economic planning, and the U.S. economy will suffer the same fate if we continue down the path toward more centralized control. We need to bring back sound money and free markets―yes, even in healthcare―if we hope to soften the economic blows coming our way.