Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 31, 2013

Pursuit of happiness should include healthcare


The Andover Townsman

---- — Pursuit of happiness should include healthcare

Editor, Townsman:

Déjà vu ...

“Smaller, smarter health-care reform is medicine we need” was the heading of my letter published three years ago. (Oct. 28, 2010, http://www.andovertownsman.com/opinion/x104120827/Letter-Smaller-smarter-health-care-reform-is-medicine-we-need.) The points there resonate eerily today, as the astronomical costs and cancerous bureaucracy of the ObamaCare law (PPACA) are now beginning to hemorrhage. In 2010, I called it “a battle of big government control, versus freedom of choice and enterprise.” More and more Americans are finally waking up to what that means.

Billions of our tax dollars have now been spent in Washington, to further document and promote this law, with very little return for that money.

Hundreds of millions have been spent on the exchange website alone — a site that does not work (or barely) —- and the spending continues. These costs are orders of magnitude more than a well-functioning website would have cost in the private sector. As a software engineer and project management professional myself, I have been following news reports to understand how and why this could happen ... but I already knew. The biggest problems have not been rooted in technical issues, but rather in dysfunctional management, compounded by political corruption of the process ... from no-bid contracts to grossly inadequate testing, etc. There has also been a disturbing political cover-up involved, to hide the huge increases in premiums and deductibles that ObamaCare brings to the great majority of Americans. This led to last-minute website changes, forced on developers by politicians and bureaucrats. The changes intentionally made it very difficult for consumers to find out the real costs of health insurance through the exchange, even when the site worked. Similar cost increases will greet most American consumers and businesses when they next renew their policies (perhaps less so in Massachusetts, since RomneyCare has already raised costs significantly here).

This is indicative of the kind of problems we can expect from ObamaCare’s administrators in the future. Only an inept big government would dump a broken website on the public, when many insiders knew it was not ready. Only an inept big government would allow the government to shut down, rather than delay ObamaCare’s catastrophic rollout. Do we really want our healthcare under the “control” of a central government like this? There are much larger problems of ObamaCare yet to come — the inevitable declines in healthcare access and quality, forced rationing of healthcare treatments and procedures, and more government dysfunction, manipulation and costs to taxpayers.

While it might not be feasible to defund, repeal or replace ObamaCare right now, it is both feasible and necessary to at least delay and re-evaluate it. That could lead to a major rewrite of the law to better fulfill the goals of health care reform, to be far more affordable and effective. ObamaCare “version 2” could incorporate more fiscally sensible ideas that were ignored last time, to create a better bipartisan plan that would truly reduce healthcare costs overall, scale back the titanic new federal bureaucracy, and be more acceptable to the public. There are far more streamlined approaches than ObamaCare, and they could better serve even the poorest among us.

This whole fiasco is also déjà vu for my wife, who once lived under a communist regime in Eastern Europe, with fully nationalized medicine. So much of our federal government’s policies and tactics are looking sadly familiar to her these days, in many scandals that voters ignore at their peril. But voters do still have the chance to change things. For starters, they can each contact their representatives and senators and call for ObamaCare to be put on hold immediately. Direct pressure might stop the bleeding. They can then support political candidates who believe in constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets. No nation can offer its citizens perfection, or an easy road, and maybe not even a government nanny or nurse; what it can offer is the freedom for people to pursue happiness as they choose, and that includes healthcare.

Jonathan Harder

23 Abbot Bridge Drive