Facta, Non Verba: Three Reasons Why Government Can't Run Health Care
by NEWT GINGRICH
August 27, 2009
Facta, non verba.
For those of you who have forgotten your Latin, it means "deeds, not words."
There's been a lot of overheated rhetoric about health care reform, but this saying is one that all Americans should return to when considering plans for a government-dominated health system
In other words, we should judge government, not by its words, but by its deeds.
With this simple principle in mind, what follows are three examples why government can't – and shouldn't – run our health care system (at least not any health care system you or I would want to be dependent on).
Reason No. 1: Government Can't Be Trusted With a Credit Card
Every family knows about making a budget and living within its means. Government, to put it bluntly, does not.
What if your husband had come home last Friday night and announced that he had racked up almost 30 percent more debt on the family credit card – including the mortgage and car loans – than he had told you about just a month ago?
Would you trust him to go out and start spending money to remodel the kitchen? And do you think he could get a loan to do it?
But that's exactly what the Obama Administration did with their weekend news dump. They announced late Friday that the amount of money they don't have but are nonetheless planning on spending over the next ten years isn't the astonishing $7 trillion they estimated in May but is instead an astounding $9 trillion.
Add this to the fact that, after the administration sold its health care reform proposal on the grounds that it will reduce costs to the Treasury, the independent Congressional Budget Office determined that the House plan will actually cost an astounding $1 trillion-$1.5 trillion in the next ten years, which will be added directly to the federal debt. The director of the CBO testified before Congress last month that "[i]n the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs."
Which do you have more faith in, the government's happy talk of "bending the cost curve" or its record of out-of-control spending?
Deeds, not words.
Reason No. 2: Government Can't Even Give Away Money Effectively
As the inimitable Andy McCarthy of National Review put it, "Compared to the infinite complexity of healthcare and health-insurance, cash-for-clunkers is kindergarten stuff. You trade in your old car for a new one that gets (slightly) better mileage and the government gives you money - between $3,500 and $4,500. How hard is that?"
Too hard for government bureaucrats, it turns out.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has boasted that the cash-for-clunkers program provided "a lifeline to the automobile industry, jump starting a major sector of the economy and putting people back to work.''
But look at the deeds, not the words.
Last week, cash-for-clunkers ended in a bureaucratic morass of red tape, failed promises and unanticipated costs.
Air Traffic Controllers Manning the Cash-for-Clunkers Hotline
Only a government bureaucracy could mess up a program designed to give away free money.
The government wizards who set up cash-for-clunkers initially budgeted to sell 250,000 cars in three months.
The program sold that many in four days.
And because the central planners who think they can provide government "competition" to the private health insurance market failed to accurately estimate how many government workers it would take to administer cash-for-clunkers, they had to take employees from the FAA – air traffic controllers, no less – to help manage the demand.
And what about the car dealerships the program was supposed to help in the first place? Even though the rebates were supposed to be paid within 10 days, only 7 percent of federal promises under cash-for-clunkers have been paid so far, leaving dealers with millions of dollars in unfunded government promises.
More Than Bureaucratic Incompetence, Political Business as Usual
But there's more to the cautionary tale of cash-for-clunkers than just bureaucratic incompetence.
This is a case study in what happens when politicians get involved in the marketplace.
Despite all the rhetoric of jump starting the auto industry, politicians' priorities are to give free goodies to their constituents. So as far as they're concerned, cash-for-clunkers has been a resounding success.
Forget the fact that they're spending money they don't have, or that car dealerships are left holding millions of dollars in empty government promises. They're not concerned with the long-term, just the next election.
So tell us again why should we think bureaucrats and politicians will perform any better with our health care?
Reason No. 3: Government Would Rather Pay Crooks Than Manage Efficiently
There's been a lot of worrying about the inevitability of government rationing health care under the Democratic reform bills in Congress.
Economists have known about this inevitability for a long time. Well, Americans can stop worrying. Government is rationing care already - and doing it in a particularly stupid way.
Studies have shown that early use of home health care after hospitalization - allowing patients to go home and be visited by a nurse to manage their care - saves Medicare billions of dollars.
So here is a case where an innovative government program actually saves the government money. Home health care is both more compassionate and more efficient. It reduces the likelihood a patient will be readmitted to a hospital by allowing her to heal in a more familiar setting.
Home Health Care Works, So Naturally Medicare Bureaucrats Cut Its Funding
So naturally bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cut $34 billion from this compassionate, efficient program last week.
And if the House health care reform bill becomes law, an additional $56.8 billion will be cut from the program – an amount equal to almost the entire federal budget for home health care services in 2007.
What makes rationing care to the homebound all the more immoral is the fact that there is a much bigger pot of savings available to Washington if it only had the political will to look.
Instead of Seeking Savings from the Homebound, Why Not the Crooks?
As a new book by the Center for Health Transformation's Jim Frogue details, criminals rip off the taxpayers to the tune of $80 billion to $120 billion each year in the current Medicare and Medicaid programs.
We're not talking about inadvertent bill errors but outright fraud. Government health programs are currently paying men maternity benefits, giving taxpayer dollars to pizza parlors that are supposed to be HIV transfusion centers, and even paying dead patients federal health care benefits.
If ever there was a reason not to turn our entire health care system over to government it is this: Government can't run the health care programs it already has. It would rather ration compassionate, effective programs than do the hard work of rooting out and punishing the crooks who are stealing our taxpayer dollars.
Facts are Stubborn Things
Americans have already heard a lot of rhetoric about health care reform, and we can expect to hear a lot more.
But as Ronald Reagan used to say, facts are stubborn things. And the facts of government's track record in managing our money and delivering on its promises speak louder than any televised presidential speech or stage-managed town hall ever could.
So as the summer winds down and the debate rages on, let this be our mantra:
Facta, non verba.
Make a bumper sticker out of it.
Put it on a tee-shirt and wear it to a town hall.
And when someone asked you what it means, tell them that before we hand over more of our lives to government, we should consider how they've treated us so far.