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OP-ED: Why Lamar Alexander’s Dangerous Obamacare Sequel Must Go

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Moderate Republicans think they can make a deal with Democrats on healthcare. But this “deal” would only hurt Americans and further liberal plans to stage a government takeover of healthcare.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander proposed the Lower Health Care Costs Act (LHCC) earlier this year to address a serious problem: surprise medical bills. Millions of insured Americans are hit with these unexpected costs every year when they are rushed to out-of-network hospitals in emergencies. President Trump himself has vowed to tackle this problem head on. LHCC aims to accomplish this goal, but it falls far short of achieving it. Instead, it creates new problems and injects more big government incompetence into our healthcare system.

Sen. Alexander’s solution to surprise medical costs is fixed pricing for all out-of-network medical care. That’s socialized medicine – in some respects, a step to the left of even Obamacare. That may sound good to people who want to emulate Venezuela, but it won’t be good for the American people.

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Patients and physicians would not benefit from this policy, but giant insurance companies would. The lobbying arm of the insurance industry, America’s Health Insurance Plans, backs LHCC just as enthusiastically as it backed Obamacare. The reason is obvious: the Alexander plan rewards insurance companies with more government largesse. The trouble is that this giveaway will cause Americans to lose even more doctors and hospitals than they did after Obamacare’s passage.

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By capping the cost of out-of-network medical service, insurance companies may make more money, but the country will have less care options. And it will get worse once these cronies abuse this very legislation that was ostensibly crafted with their interests in mind.

Insurers control their own networks. So, with prices set at median in-network rates, they will easily be able to cut costs for themselves even further by eliminating higher-priced doctors from their plans. There will be fewer care options for the average American and many people will experience a decline in their healthcare service.

For all these reasons and more, healthcare providers are not keen on the LHCC. The American Hospital Association opposes this government intervention into medical care.

“[We] are concerned about several of the proposals that would allow the government to intrude into private commercial contracts between providers and insurers,” AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said of LHCC. “Specifically, banning so-called ‘all or nothing’ clauses could lead to even more narrow networks with fewer provider choices for patients, while adversely affecting access to care at rural and community hospitals.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor himself, is one Republican who notices the big problem with LHCC. “If you fix the price that ER doctors work at, you will get a shortage… This is what happened to Chavez, it’s what happened to Maduro. I don’t think we’re becoming Venezuela soon, but this is part of what they do down there,” he told reporters in June.

LHCC is another misguided Republican attempt at bipartisanship. It won’t solve the problem it aims to fix, but it will make moderate Republicans feel like they did something. However, that something is worse than doing nothing. It involves helping Democrats bring socialized medicine to the United States.

Ordinary Americans want a healthcare system that lets them have the doctors of their choice and provides affordable care for their needs. Government bureaucrats will ensure that they have neither. Americans will end up a troubling forerunner to socialized medicine that still leaves them with surprise medical bills and painful costs. Bureaucrats, shockingly, can’t solve these problems.

Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of GOP leadership should tell these Republicans to stop trying to please Democrats and come up with a real solution to our country’s healthcare problems. LHCC is not a real solution. The only people who will be happy with it are those who want a government takeover of healthcare and insurance companies.

Around The World

Not all Shi’a-Majority Nations are the Same

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The recent alleged arson attack on the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai, a Jewish holy site in Iran, was indicative of the ever-rising rate of anti-Semitism and broader religious intolerance in the Islamic Republic. The recently released United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report had highlighted Iran’s anti-Semitic targeting of its small Jewish population as well as other minorities including followers of the Baha’i faith; the most persecuted faith in Iran.

The USCIRF described that it documented “a particular uptick in the persecution of Baha’is and local government officials who supported them in 2019. Iran’s government blamed Baha’is —without evidence — for widespread popular protests, accusing the community of collaboration with Israel, where the Baha’i World Centre is located. Iran’s government also continued to promote hatred against Baha’is and other religious minorities on traditional and social media channels.”

U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr has said that “anti-Semitism isn’t ancillary to the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a central foundational component of the ideology of that regime, and we have to be clear about it, and we have to confront it and call it out for what it is.” After the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai was set ablaze last weekend, Carr reiterated these statements and called Iran the “world’s chief state sponsor of anti-Semitism.”

In 2016 I wrote, “According to Articles 12 and 13 of the Iranian Constitution, all branches of Islam and Christianity have the right to worship, as do Jews and Zoroastrians, within the limits of the law there. However, converting away from Islam to any other religion is considered haram, or forbidden, and in many cases, could result in execution.”

Anti-Semitism is a historical reality in Iran’s strict brand of Shi’a Islam, which emphasizes the separation between believers and non-believers, expressed in terms of purity versus impurity. The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute explains that in Iran, “under the influence of Zoroastrian traditions, the Jews were considered physically impure and untouchable (najasa). Jews were also prohibited from inheriting from Shiites, whereas the opposite was allowed. A Jew who converted to Islam was entitled to the entire inheritance. Shiites were not allowed to marry Jewish women, except for in temporary marriage (mut’a), which is an inferior and exploitative type of concubinage.”

It is also a little-known fact that the country name of Iran is derived from the ancient Persian word Arya, a linguistic predecessor of the modern European term Aryan. Further, Armenian Nazi collaborator Garegin Nzhdeh (1886-1955) is the founder of the racist Tseghakronism movement, whose ideology is reminiscent of the Aryan supremacy espoused by Nzhdeh’s Nazi comrades. Today, Nzhdeh’s brand of Aryan and anti-Semitic ideology is palpable in both Armenia and Iran, neighboring countries where the Anti-Defamation League has documented that more than half of the populations hold a series of anti-Semitic views — at even higher rate in Armenia (58 percent) than in Iran (56 percent).

At the same time, it is important to note that the majority of Iranians are secular and the regime does not necessarily represent them, or their values. In fact, the Iranian government persecutes its Azerbaijani, Arab, and other citizens from minority populations.

Yet a stark contrast with Iran is found in its Shi’a-majority neighbor, Azerbaijan, which has strong relations with Israel and protects its Jewish citizens as well as other religious and ethnic minorities.

Southern California-based evangelical pastor Johnnie Moore has elaborated on the telling differences in the realm of religious tolerance between Azerbaijan and Iran, noting that Azerbaijan is “a country where Sunni and Shi’a clerics pray together, where Evangelical and Russian Orthodox Christians serve together, and where thriving Jewish communities enjoy freedom and total security in their almost entirely Islamic country.” He has also called Azerbaijan “a model for peaceful coexistence between religions.”

During my own visit to Azerbaijan, I observed and documented this first-hand. I believe that Azerbaijan is a nation that bears the torch, and burden, of bringing religious freedom to its less tolerant neighbors in the region, like Iran.

Perhaps the most dramatic indicator of Azerbaijani tolerance is the post-Soviet state’s special relationship with its Jewish community and with Israel. Last November, Azerbaijan unveiled a statue in honor of the nation’s Jewish war hero Albert Agarunov (1969-1992). Although Agarunov was killed in battle, his legacy remains a powerful symbol of Jewish integration and pride for his Muslim-majority country.

Israel and Azerbaijan have closely cooperated for more than a decade in the realms of security, energy, and tourism. Most recently, Azerbaijan sent its Finance Minister Samir Sharifov to this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, where Sharifov said that the country’s “cooperation with Israel is not limited to oil supply; we are interested in widening cooperation in defense and the transfer of technology.”

Sharifov also read remarks from a letter to AIPAC by Mehriban Aliyeva, the first vice president of Azerbaijan, who wrote, “It is gratifying that our former compatriots of Jewish origin, living nowadays in the United States and Israel, have maintained close ties with Azerbaijan and contribute to the strengthening of our relations with these countries. We are grateful to them.”

How can Azerbaijan govern and act so differently from its Shi’a neighbor? Iran is a theocracy that mixes religion and state more thoroughly than any other country in the world. In contrast, Azerbaijan’s constitution affirms the country as a secular state and ensures religious freedom for its citizens. Azerbaijan is also facing its own human rights issues and working on progressing as a nation. However, the fact of the matter remains, though Iran and Azerbaijan share a border, the similarities between their governments largely end there. Not all Shi’a-majority nations are the same.

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