Would Obamacare end corruption—or expand it?

Michael F. Cannon Director of Health Policy Studies, Cato Institute
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President Obama wants a health care bill now.  And this time, he swears it will be corruption-free.

Yet it’s hard to imagine a more pro-corruption strategy than the president’s.

The first part of that strategy is for the House of Representatives to cast a pro-corruption vote.

According to the president, his new health plan “gets rid of many of the provisions that had no place in health care reform—provisions that were more about winning individual votes…than improving health care.”

A spokesman says it would “take the pot-sweetening out of the process.”

But the president isn’t asking the House to vote on his new plan.  He’s asking them to pass the corruption-laden bill that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, when few Americans were watching the Senate spend their money.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Senate health care bill?

It contains the notorious $100 million “Cornhusker Kickback,” granted to Nebraska at roughly the moment Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced he would cast the crucial 60th vote for the bill.

It contains the $300 million “Louisiana Purchase,” which helped bring Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on board.  (That’s more than the $15 million President Jefferson paid for the Louisiana territory in 1803—even after adjusting for inflation—and at least Jefferson got the Rocky Mountains.)

It sets $500 million aside for Massachusetts, which helped convince Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) of the bill’s merits.  Same deal with the $600 million set aside for Vermont, and that state’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I).

The Senate bill even contains a backroom deal with the pharmaceutical industry that was, in the words of PhRMA lobbyist Billy Tauzin, “blessed” by the White House.

President Obama’s idea of an anti-corruption strategy is for House members to be for corruption, before they’re against it.

The second phase of Obama’s anti-corruption strategy—his new health plan—would guarantee more corruption in the future.

Obama promises that after the House writes all those corrupt deals into law, he will strip them out—and the senators who demanded those deals in the first place will help.

Any congressman who believes that one shouldn’t be allowed to touch their own checkbook, much less yours and mine.

Even if the president could somehow weed out the corruption this year, it would come back again and again.

ObamaCare would dramatically expand government control over health care.

Each new power ObamaCare creates would be targeted by special interests looking for special favors, and held for ransom by politicians seeking a slice of the pie.

ObamaCare would guarantee that crucial decisions affecting your medical care would be made by the same people, through the same process that created the Cornhusker Kickback, for as far as the eye can see.

When ObamaCare supporters, like Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman, claim that “voters are rejecting the process more than the substance” of the legislation, they’re missing the point.

When government grows, corruption grows.  When voters reject these corrupt side deals, they are rejecting the substance of ObamaCare.

If Obama is serious about fighting corruption, he should invite C-SPAN to into every meeting he holds with members of Congress.

Then we’ll see whether he’s lobbying House members based on the Senate bill’s merits, or promising House members judgeships or ambassadorships in exchange for their votes.

What’s going on behind those closed doors, anyway?  Aren’t you just a little bit curious?

Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and coauthor of “Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.”