Frist: ObamaCare 'beautiful on paper'

Bill Frist, medical doctor and former Republican Senate Majority Leader (2003 - 2007), said Tuesday that he's for fixing not nixing ObamaCare. His pronouncement came on the same day that some 200 economists sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for its repeal and replacement. Frist said of ObamaCare:

...It's not the bill that I would have drafted.  But it is the law of the land, and it is the platform, the fundamental platform, upon which all future efforts to make this system better for that patient, for that family, for that community, will be based...

Frist, a consummate country-club establishment Republican, thinks the law contains some desirable elements that "need to be preserved, need to be cuddled, need to be snuggled, need to be promoted and need to be implemented...I mean, what came out of Washington, D.C., the vision, the construct, the policy, is beautiful on paper[.]"

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or of one's family's holdings, as the case may be. Frist's father and brother founded Hospital Corporation of America, the "largest private operator of health care facilities in the world." His brother, nephews and other members of his extended family own significant stakes in the company, which is eyeing a public stock offering to resolve looming debt issues. With ObamaCare, hospitals forecast less uncompensated care (bad debt) and their stock prices have been rising accordingly. The "improved prospects for publicly traded hospitals appear to have inspired the owners of HCA to take the company public" again.

Frist acknowledged that the constitutional questions being raised by scores of states suing the federal government over ObamaCare are valid.

Beautiful on paper? This diagram is not suitable for framing or imposing on the American people. Nor is this one, which "illustrates how ObamaCare will create 159 boards, commissions, bureaus, programs and offices of the federal government to carry out new tasks under the health care law." Another chart displays the 1,968 powers ObamaCare grants to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Yesterday HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed that 50 to 129 million people could be denied affordable coverage without health reform, a figure that Michael F. Cannon at Cato blog contends is wildly overstated. He cites HHS's own survey, from 2001, that found "only 1 percent of Americans had ever been denied health insurance." Cannon's refutation is recommended reading and includes the following

It is true that insurers charge higher premiums to many people with pre-existing conditions - and it is crucial that they have the freedom to do so.  Risk-based premiums create virtuous incentives for people to buy insurance while they are healthy and to be cost-conscious consumers.  They also encourage insurers to develop innovative products that protect against the risk of higher premiums.  The real problem here is that the government has created an employment-based health insurance system that denies consumers the protections that unregulated markets already provide, as well as additional protections that insurers would develop absent this government intervention.

Cannon's Cato colleague, Roger Pilon, adds

The basic problem is too much government in the health care arena. It's anything today but a market. Those approaches that have reintroduce market forces - like health savings accounts - have worked quite well...But they won't be allowed under ObamaCare. Why? Because the Democrats know what's best for us. What's best, they believe, is for us to be dependent on government for our health care. No thanks.

H. Freeman is the pen name of an author closely following ObamaCare.
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