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BUCHANAN: Save Healthcare from Big Government Know-it-Alls

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Are you worried that you may face a medical emergency and be hit with a big surprise bill from an out-of-network provider? Maybe you shouldn’t be concerned. If Presidential contender and self-avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders has his way, bills will soon disappear.

The Democrat, who nearly became the party’s nominee in 2016 and is a top choice among liberals for next year, has already unveiled plans to spend more than $48 trillion to eliminate student debt and battle against climate change. Now Sanders aims to “release a new proposal to cancel $81 billion worth of medical debt Americans are struggling to pay off,” according to the Washington Post.

Great, if your country happens to have a spare $80 billion or so sitting around.

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I jest, because of course the United States didn’t have that kind of money available when I was Treasurer in the 1980s and tax revenues were pouring in. These days, money is tighter. Congress is already spending $1 trillion per year more than the country takes, and the federal budget deficit is already more than $20 trillion. There simply isn’t any money to spend on big government programs.

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To be fair, it’s easy to mock Sanders and his big government approach to every social ill. This is the man, after all, who once told CNBC: “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers.” He would presumably use Washington’s power to reduce consumer choices in health care as well as deodorants.

However, it’s less funny when Republicans want to use the power of the federal government in an ill-fated attempt to eliminate big medical bills.

When it returns from a month-long break, Congress may take up S.1895, a bill called the “Lower Health Care Costs Act.” It’s sponsored by Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, himself a former presidential aspirant. Lower health care costs would be a great goal. But the bill goes about things the wrong way, by empowering government and insurance companies instead of people.

Alexander’s proposal would mandate that health-care providers set a “median in-network rate” for services. That rate would be based on the comparable Medicare (another big government attempt to solve health care costs) rates. It wouldn’t matter whether the recipients are in-network or out-of-network; the price would be controlled.

The problem is that price controls never work. Instead, they always lead to shortages. In this case, the price controls would cap the amount that doctors could be paid. Some providers would leave medicine, leading to a shortage. Patients would face longer wait times and have fewer skilled providers available. That’s not exactly what Americans are clamoring for in the 2020 presidential race.

Meanwhile, insurance companies love this idea. They would start with the new median price, and then start squeezing doctors and hospitals from there. They would offer lower and lower payments as they kept raised premiums for patients. They’d stand to make more money and face less competition as hospitals disappear.

The correct way to deal with the problem of surprise health care bills is by encouraging competition, which tends to drive down prices.

For example, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire would be a much better option. Their bill, the “Stopping The Outrageous Practice of Surprise Medical Bills Act,” would, among other steps, apply price arbitration to settle health care bills.

Arbitration means that when there’s a price dispute, for example over the cost of out-of-network care, the hospital would submit a number that it considers fair and the insurance company would submit a number that it considers fair. An independent arbiter would choose one number or the other. Both sides would have an incentive to be reasonable, and the patient would benefit. The process is already working in New York state, and deserves a trial nationwide.

Americans need more health care choices, not fewer. Sen. Sanders wants to hobble our successful medical system by imposing price controls and eliminating price discipline. Mitch McConnell and the rest of Congress should refuse to go along. Instead, lawmakers should take sensible actions that can lower costs in the long term and improve the system for everyone.

Bay Buchanan is a former U.S. Treasurer under President Ronald Reagan.

Opinion

OPINION: Why Nobody is Telling the Truth about the Jan. 6 Capitol Siege

Even many conservatives are scared of the truth.

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The coverage surrounding the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol is some of the worst I have experienced throughout my years of reporting and opining on the news. 

And it’s not just coming from the Left, who are desperate to spin that President Trump and his supporters are the ringleaders of a treasonous insurrection. Conservatives have dropped the ball in reporting on the matter as well.

There is a concerted effort to shoehorn the narrative that a small handful of ANTIFA provocateurs engineered the whole scene. In the social media age, there will always be individuals who hope to maximize carnage to increase their followings and get clicks. This is a sad fact of life, and it is being used by lazy and disingenuous conservatives to reject blame and refrain from grabbling with the serious implications of what occurred.

These conservatives throw Trump supporters under the bus, suggesting that they are dumb enough to be held hostage to the whims of maybe a dozen or so leftist provocateurs. Heroes who displayed tremendous courage, like Air Force veteran turned patriot martyr Ashli Babbitt who was executed in the Capitol by an officer, have been completely dismissed as a result of this dishonest reporting. These voices are ostensibly suggesting that only ANTIFA would ever dare to make a stand, as True Conservatives™ only wave the flag and vote harder when confronted with tyranny.

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This false narrative ignores what has been occurring in the grassroots American Right. The government institutions supported by conservatives with an almost religious fervor, namely the police and the military, have failed them. The police protected the officials who covered up election fraud in crucial battleground states and crushed the rights of whistleblowers. This is fueling radicalization as conservatives are forced to flirt with options they never hoped to consider.

Ornery right-wing protesters now chant “f*ck the blue” as they watch cops protect ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter thugs. They are watching a literal military occupation of Washington D.C. take place, with the troops used as pawns to prop up a ruler lacking legitimacy with tens of millions of Americans. They’d never be deployed to keep out foreign invaders, but they will certainly be used to keep the commoners in line. Conservatives become laughingstocks when they appeal to law-and-order sentiments under these conditions. The Left used the U.S. Constitution to bludgeon Trump in the courts and obstruct his agenda. When the rule of law is no more, what alternative is there to rebellion?

I want to make clear that this is not a defense of what happened at the U.S. Capitol. The rioters were certainly lawless, bloodthirsty, and acted with reckless abandon. They defiled sacred ground, as the political class has made clear in the aftermath, and may have opened Pandora’s box with the ramifications. A 9/11-style overreach is being prepared against the patriotic remnant of America, and there will likely be no turning back. Whether it is ultimately remembered as the modern incarnation of the Boston Tea Party or an infamous and humiliating display of America’s startling decline as an empire will be determined by the historians.

The insults and smears from the elites toward the rioters are similar to the contempt that Tory loyalists had for the founding-era revolutionaries as they agitated against British royalty. The Founding Fathers were men who seized the moment and did the unthinkable using means that would offend modern holier-than-thou conservatives. They defaced property, committed politically-motivated beatings, boiled their opponents’ skin with hot tar, and delegitimized standing government officials with aggressive propaganda campaigns. This is the history of America that the globalist establishment and their ANTIFA/BLM shock troops desperately want to erase from the record.

The display on Jan. 6 shows that the America of old will be very difficult to put down. The official conservative movement, with its rigid gatekeeping at every level, does not want the truth to be known. Many Trump backers, desperate to protect the president, want to obscure the truth as well. They do not want to admit that the populist America First movement inspired by Trump is evolving into a leaderless force capable of spontaneous mass action. The energy from Trump’s frenetic rallies is taking shape into a movement that can overtake a Capitol in an afternoon. This is the truth that so many on the Right are incentivized to deny.

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