Friday, August 21, 2009

(Un) Intended Consequences?

The left has been focusing on all the arguments against nationalized health care by saying that those arguments are either lies or "misinformation". As the best example, since HR3200 doesn't actually contain the words "death panel", that term and the underlying concept must be a false claim.

Newsweek has taken it upon themselves to highlight some of the so-called "myths" being circulated about nationalized health care. In a cute, little corner of their website appears "The Gaggle: What Are the Craziest Myths About Healthcare?".

Their featured "loopy" claims include:

- Doctors will be imprisoned if they provide life-saving treatments not sanctioned by the government

- Private insurance will be outlawed

- Obama wants to revive a Nazi program of killing incurably or mentally ill people

- Medicare will be ended

- The bill allows the government to access your bank account

The blog goes on to accuse the likes of Hot Air, Investor's Business Daily, National Review Online, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck of repeating these "lies" and fomenting right-wing activism at town hall meetings.

I'd like to share some of the conventional understanding behind these so-called "loopy" claims. I can't respond directly to them, because their itemized claims are actually true in the way they have parsed them. Instead, I'll look at the substance behind the claim.

Doctors will be imprisoned if they provide life-saving treatments not sanctioned by the government

Obviously, this is absurd. But the dirty little secret is that doctors will not be compensated for procedures that are not acceptable to the government. Hence, doctors will be "imprisoned" by a government dictate on how they run their business. Is this an unintended consequence?

Private insurance will be outlawed

Again, ridiculous on its face. However, once an employee loses their health insurance due to leaving a job, their only option is Obamacare. Employers will not add incoming employees to their private insurance plan, because, presumably, they will be already be covered by the government plan. Again, is this an unintended consequence?

I'm going to skip the next two "loopy" assertions and focus on the last one, my personal favorite:

The bill allows the government to access your bank account

Sounds ridiculous, right? Not according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, writing for National Review Online:

According to section 163, the standards will “enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service . . . ” In addition, they will “enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with related health care payment and remittance advice.”

Huh? She goes on to explain:

What is envisioned is a “machine-readable health plan beneficiary card” that, in addition to information about a person’s medical history, will contain checking-account or credit-card information, so as to allow electronic payments and, if a person is lucky, occasional remittances. Since under the proposed legislation everyone would be required to have health insurance, all Americans would have to provide this information.

The required collection of such data is unprecedented. At no other time has the government sought to collect this type of financial information from everyone in America.

The idea of wholesale collection of checking-account information by Uncle Sam raises many questions. Who would see it? How would people be protected from theft of their account numbers? Fundamentally, who would control this sensitive information?

There are other takes on this particular section that may differ in their analysis, but at least we're now talking about the substance of the bill.

I've downloaded the pdf version of HR3200 and my eyes started to roll into the back of my head after a few minutes of reading it. If you don't have a comprehensive command of legalese, you're quickly lost. Moreover, it's very hard to convey a possible consequence of a specific section without resorting to the use of metaphors or hyperbole to aid your analysis. The bill is just too darn complicated and most people won't understand the potential of the bill's text without doing so.

Sarah Palin used the phrase "death panel" as a metaphor to help describe the potential consequences of Section 1233. When faced with the substance of what Sarah Palin was describing, the Senate quickly removed such potentially consequential language from their version of the health care bill. Score one for the "Cuda".

Obama and the left are focusing on the semantics of these arguments instead of their substance. They have to. If they focus on the substance of the arguments, then they might let slip the intended consequences of this outrageous bill.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the "that which is not seen" in this case is disturbing to the Nth degree. I've seen people suggest that they break it up into a whole bunch of bills, one for each issue. They will NEVER do that, because we might actually comprehend what they're trying to do to us. (rant off)