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Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Ok., a physician and a former health-care company entrepreneur, said in an exclusive interview with Eagle Daily Investor that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, would add $2.3 trillion in new healthcare expenditures during the first 10 years without a funding source for pay for it.
As a physician who has seen the flaws of heightening governments’ role in healthcare first hand, Sen. Coburn, the author of a new book, “The Debt Bomb,” said the incentives to limit expenses are lacking in healthcare whenever a third party pays the bills. With Obamacare designed to give the government a vastly enlarged role in healthcare insurance, Sen. Coburn cautioned that the cost would soar and further boost the U.S. federal debt that now tops $16 trillion.
The Supreme Court offered no relief to opponents of Obamacare Thursday morning when the jurists ruled in a 5-4 vote that the requirement for individuals to buy insurance or pay a tax for not doing so was constitutional. The ruling found that Congress has the authority to require the purchase of insurance or the payment of a tax for not doing so.
“It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income but choose to go without health insurance,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.
Obamacare will exacerbate the “worst problems” of healthcare that stem from the lack of focus on cost, Sen. Coburn said.
“Everyone thinks someone else is paying their bill,” Sen. Coburn said. “There’s no consumer-directed behavior, in terms of purchasing the healthcare. Therefore, what happens is that nobody is frugal with their health-care dollars except those persons who happen not to be covered. And when everybody’s covered, thinking someone else is paying the bill, costs are going to skyrocket, and they already have. We’ve seen costs go up this year much higher than they did last year in anticipation of this bill’s cost.”
The fiscal ramifications of the health-care insurance requirement are huge, since health-care accounts for roughly 18% of the annual gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States. For decades, the cost of healthcare has risen faster than the rate of inflation.
“Our problem with healthcare is that we’ve never had real market forces since World War II controlling the cost of healthcare,” Sen. Coburn said. “There are two areas in our economy today where we have abandoned the free enterprise system with its earned success and rewards. One is education, and we’re failing because the government has essentially taken over education. And the other is healthcare. There are five studies out there right now that show $800- to 850-billion a year, one third of everything we spend in healthcare, doesn’t help anybody get well and doesn’t prevent anybody from getting sick. Why do you think that is? It’s because there are no market forces allocating that resource. Everyone thinks somebody else is paying their medical bills.”
If health-care providers are not concerned about cost because the payment is not coming directly out of a patient’s pocket, then the provider will be neither frugal nor efficient, Sen. Coburn said. Anyone who believes that “all of a sudden,” the U.S. government can control the vast majority of the health-care industry under Obamacare is misguided, he added.
“What we’re trying to do is ‘Sovietize’ the American health-care system,” Sen. Coburn said. “Let me tell you, it didn’t work out well for the Soviet system. The bureaucracy does what’s safe, not what’s best — always. They never do what’s best; they always do what’s safe for the bureaucracy. And what we’re going to do is accentuate the errors that we’ve made in healthcare with the Affordable Care Act.”
Sen. Coburn said before the Supreme Court decision was announced that he hoped Obamacare would be struck down. He expressed the view that lawmakers should seek a “better way” to allocate $2.6 trillion in the economy than to have the government set rules and regulations, as well as to change the tax code. The tax code change would exempt those who receive health-care insurance through employees from paying taxes on that form of compensation but yet tax those who do not have employer-provided health-care coverage, Sen. Coburn explained.
“We discriminate in healthcare, but it’s because we haven’t allowed the market forces,” Sen. Coburn said. “In the book, I talk about the Amish, because the Amish don’t have insurance and therefore they don’t think someone else is paying for their healthcare. They think and know that they are paying for their healthcare. Consequently, they are very prudent with their healthcare. Now, accidents happen, sometimes they can’t apply market forces, but the vast majority of the time, they’re thinking about the connection between the money in their pocket and what something costs and whether or not it’s necessary, adequate, and realistic for them.”
Sen. Coburn questioned whether the government can operate any program efficiently.
“Find one program that’s efficient,” Sen. Coburn said. “I’ve been up here almost eight years and I can’t find one program that’s both efficient and effective. Some are effective, but I haven’t found one that’s efficient. So, the first assumption is that having the federal government run anything is crazy. Our founders knew that. That’s why they wrote for a limited government.”
To have the federal government take over one-sixth of our economy through Obamacare and think it will be better than operating in a “true market” is deeply flawed, Coburn said.
A spokesman for Sen. Coburn issued a statement shortly after the court ruling was released to indicate that the decision affirmed Congress’ power to tax people if they “don’t eat their broccoli.” Sen. Coburn previously used the analogy of mandating that everyone eat broccoli when he compared it to the requirement that all individuals buy health-care insurance.
“Now it’s up to the American people to decide whether they will tolerate this obscene abuse of individual liberty,” Sen. Coburn’s spokesman said.
In 2009, Sen. Coburn authored the Patient’s Choice Act, an alternative bill to Obamacare. Sen. Coburn’s bill also was backed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Paul Dykewicz is the editor of Eagle Daily Investor.