By Congressman Joe Pitts
Over the past few years, the Politifact website has gained national prominence for analyzing political claims and trying to gauge their truthfulness. They are generally respected for their efforts to determine the facts. I know that they have fairly judged some of my own statements. However, political rhetoric cannot always be easily judged.
Last year, Politifact ranked the description of the new health care law as a "Government takeover" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. I disagreed with them at the time, and as the law is implemented I believe it is becoming clear that the law gave the government unprecedented power over health care.
Did the health care law eliminate private insurance companies? No, they will continue to operate. However, their business will now be controlled by the federal government at a very basic level.
If the government started setting prices at your local Wal-Mart, you would probably say that they had been taken over. In a free economy, individual businesses set prices based on their own calculations about what they need to remain profitable.
The new law has set up a complex bureaucratic process to set prices in health care. You probably know that starting in 2014 every American will have to purchase insurance.
The only way to qualify for government credits to help buy insurance will be to shop on an exchange operated by the government. Every insurance plan in this exchange will have to meet thousands of government standards. Additionally, any newly created health insurance plan or any current plan that makes major changes will be subjected to the new rules.
These standards were not written into the law. This is why Nancy Pelosi said that, "We have to pass the bill to see what is in it." Congressional Democrats decided that they would leave that important work up to an unelected panel of bureaucrats.
The federal government will require that certain health services have no copayment. Some reporters have written that these services will now be "free." Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as a free lunch. The cost will be hidden and added to everyone's insurance premium.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that individual insurance premiums could go up by 10 percent or more because of these newly "free" services. If no copayment is required, demand for these services will greatly increase. Even a modest payment makes a person think about whether they need to see a doctor or get a prescription.
The law clearly places the federal government in the driver's seat. While the services without copayment may be limited at the beginning, they will certainly grow over time. We've already seen this on the state level. Insurance mandates created by state governments have proliferated. In Pennsylvania, there are now 57 mandates.
Each time that a state passes a mandate, it is estimated that the cost of insurance rises by 1 to 10 percent. With the cost of health insurance already rising too fast for most workers to cope with, this just places added pressure.
I understand that some people see additional government control as a good thing. However, I think most Americans agree with me that all these added rules and regulations only make receiving needed health care more complex and more expensive.
We already have government programs that are struggling. Medicare and Medicaid are underfunded by trillions of dollars and have hundreds of billions of dollars in fraud and waste. Instead of strengthening these plans for future generations, last year's health care law took more than $500 billion out of Medicare to create new entitlements and placed an increased burden on states to cover millions more individuals under Medicaid.
The health care reform law didn't turn the federal government into the only insurer in the U.S. What it did was give the federal government the power to make fundamental decisions about health care and come between patients and doctors. That sounds like a government takeover to me. A takeover that I will continue to work to repeal and replace with better solutions.