For the past decade, I’ve been an orthopedic surgeon. Lately, I’ve wondered what would happen if I practiced surgery the way President Obama and Congress have tackled reforming health care. Forget the obvious malpractice jokes about repairing the femur of a patient with two fractured ankles. I’m trying to imagine what would happen if I promised patients “good as new” results, a pain-free, fully-repaired body, while failing to deliver so much as a single healed bone.
Good surgeons do everything within their power to have patients’ results meet their expectations. Washington seems to have done nothing of the sort when it comes to repairing our broken health care system.
Of course, having touted ObamaCare as “historic” from the moment it was signed on March 23rd, there was nowhere to go but down. Consider as an example the new law’s “high risk pools,” meant to make health insurance readily available to patients with pre-existing conditions.
On April 2nd, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius crowed, “When it’s up and running, the new high risk pools program will provide immediate relief for millions of Americans.”
By law, that program was slated to be functional by July 1st. The reality? A mere 1,200 people have qualified nationwide in the first two months. The tally for the entire state of New Jersey, population 8.7 million? Two. Apparently, meeting deadlines is only for the little people obligated to pay their taxes by April 15th.
Nor did the unfulfilled expectations stop there. To account for Congress’ failure to adequately fund the plan’s goals, Secretary Sebelius created new rules allowing her to freeze or limit eligibility for the high risk pools, and limit benefits as necessary to stay within budget. Apparently, following through on the promises at the core of the new law is also for the little people — working Americans who will be fined if they fail to purchase overpriced health insurance.
The real little people, America’s children, have fared no better thus far. “Universal health coverage for kids” was a headline the President touted for months before ObamaCare became law. The problem? Instead of encouraging parents to purchase health insurance for their kids, or forcing health insurers to compete for business in order to drive down costs, ObamaCare does the opposite.
Many health insurers, unburdened by competition, simply have decided to stop writing new individual health insurance policies for children. While an individual policy for a healthy youngster is comparatively inexpensive insurance against a broken arm at the park or a flu requiring an emergency room or hospital stay, this option appears to be on the verge of disappearing for millions of Americans.
As part of its acquiescence to ObamaCare, Big Insurance demanded new rules and restrictions on families — including specific enrollment periods each year. If parents choose not to buy insurance during that month, their family will simply be out of luck. And President Obama agreed. His administration has pledged to “work with” the industry on this.
The American people did not want ObamaCare, as evidenced by the past five months of polls showing increasing support for repeal. On issue after issue, the President and Democratic leaders knowingly made untrue claims about what ObamaCare would and would not do for American families. As businesses and families face insurance renewals, the cruelest disappointment of all will be that not only will the results of this so-called reform fail to meet expectations, but the costs to families, businesses and jobs will far exceed even critics’ projections.
I would have my medical license revoked if I practiced orthopedic surgery with this same level of reckless arrogance. For doctors, results are what patients live with for the rest of their lives. For politicians, results are the stuff of talking points, not fact but fiction. Today’s failure, it seems, is only a changed subject away from being tomorrow’s success.
Dr. Eric Novack, a Phoenix orthopedic surgeon, is the chairman of the Arizona Health Care Freedom Act and the U.S. Health Care Freedom Coalition.