“First, do no harm.”
—The Hippocratic oath
OK, maybe I shouldn’t
have laughed when I heard about the new Massachusetts health care
reform law. And yet … didn’t someone once say that laughter is the
best medicine? We’ll need it when our doctors are too busy filling
out their budget paperwork to write us a prescription.
Let’s start with the
official history of S.2400, the 349-page bill that basically takes
over the commonwealth’s private health care system, presently
considered one of the best in the world. From the state’s website:
– Senate Reported from the
committee of conference
– Senate Rules suspended
– Senate Committee of conference
report accepted - see Roll Call #295 [38 YEAS - 0 NAYS]
– House Rules suspended
– House Committee of conference
report accepted, in concurrence - 133 YEAS to 20 NAYS (See YEA
and NAY in Supplement, No. 357)
– House Enacted
– Senate Enacted and laid before
– Governor Signed by the Governor,
Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012
There you go. An entire
overhaul of our entire health care system in just one day. Normally
you have to give legislators time to read the bill they are voting
on, but that silly requirement is easily set aside with the words
“rules suspended” (see above).
They couldn’t be
allowed time to read the bill because July 31 was the last day of
the legislative session this year and there were other important
bills that they also didn’t have time to read that needed to be
passed before midnight. Note that every senator voted Yea on S.2400,
and all but 20 House members.
RomneyCare had passed
after a long, well-publicized process in 2006. At the time its
supporters admitted that it had no cost controls, which they would
get to later. Years went by, mandates were added, health care costs
rose; then when ObamaCare became a presidential campaign issue,
someone here decided it was time to get started on phase 2, cost
containment, to prove it could be done.
Variations on the bill
made their way over a few months to the conference committee, where
it was finalized with input from various special-interest sources
which were either seeking favors or fighting punishment. The first
look the public got at the new final version was when the State
House News Service reported, just before its passing, that “health
care costs will not be allowed to grow faster than the overall rate
of the (state) economy.
Yes, I laughed. Who
knew it was so easy? Just tell a giant, complicated system of
hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, doctors’ offices, and
children playing with toy stethoscopes that the total cost of
everything they do can be no more than the completely unrelated rate
of growth of the Massachusetts economy, and the cost problem is
Wait! How will we know
that every entity, every doctor is doing his part of keep within the
allowed growth? Not to worry: I’m told that there will be 25 new
state commissions with 266 government appointees to oversee them and
make sure they keep track of… everything they do. No, if they get
busy with patient care they don’t get to suspend the rules.
And doctors thought
Medicare and Medicaid paperwork was burdensome. If I’m reading this
right, there could be a $500,000 fine if they don’t cooperate; or
their licenses to practice here may be reviewed by the bureaucrats.
Hey, don’t we already have a doctor shortage?
Aside from the fact
that the state government is now running the health care system,
this is why it’s called “socialized medicine” — along with $165
million “assessed” on our health plans, there will be a $60 million
“assessment” on successful hospitals to subsidize financially
unstable hospitals. However, only three hospital entities —
Partners, Beth Israel Deaconess and Children’s — have to pay the
assessment, though the latter two can apply for waivers. Only
nonprofit hospitals can get the money, because to anti-capitalist
politicians, profit is bad.
As these “assessments”
are passed along to patients, they allow us yet another opportunity
to pay for government bailouts of unstable entities. Lucky us.
Get this: Again
according to the State House News Service, if the bureaucrats
determine that “market power was unduly influencing pricing to the
detriment of consumers,” the provider would be sent to the attorney
general who could “pursue possible anti-competitive trust
violations.” As if most bureaucrats would recognize “the market” if
they found it in their bedpan.
Clearly the state is
after Partners, which is my health care provider. It has been
growing dramatically by merging Mass General with suburban
hospitals, thereby giving patients like me great surgeons and
specialists without having to drive into Boston, risking injury from
falling fixtures in a Big Dig tunnel.
Yet when Governor
Patrick signed this bill, he was joined in celebration by the Boston
Chamber of Commerce and the
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which has Partners, Beth
Israel, and Children’s Hospital on
its Board of Directors.
Let me guess: MTF
managed to lobby even bigger assessments out of the final bill, and
our kiss-up Boston business community had to show its usual
groveling gratitude instead of standing up and fighting back against
the entire crazy plan.
I called Partners,
which has saved my life on more than one occasion, to see if it is
going to challenge this law over its $42 million assessment. I know
the United States Supreme Court, in reference to ObamaCare, said the
government can tax anyone anytime, but picking just one successful
hospital system to pay for most of this latest Massachusetts
boondoggle can’t be legal, can it? The spokesperson for Partners
told me it is “still reviewing the law.” The six-month period before
full implementation gives everyone, including our doctors, time to
review it. Perhaps the general practitioners can discuss it with
legislators during an intimate moment of their annual physical.
If no one can stop this
first-in-America experiment in socialized medicine, we Massachusetts
consumers of health care better plan not to get sick more or faster
than the Massachusetts economy grows.