Today, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle was scheduled to attend a photo-op with President Obama dealing with the issue of affordable health care. According to Politico.com:
President Obama meets with five of the nine governors who co-hosted the Regional Forums on Health Care earlier this year. Govs. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Jim Douglas (R-VT), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Christine Gregoire (D-WA) will share the lessons learned and discuss the need to enact health reform that gets costs under control.
It seems natural that Doyle would go begging to Obama to fix health care in Wisconsin. Virtually every move Doyle has made regarding health care has actually increased the cost to patients in the state – so it’s perfectly logical that Doyle would be batting his eyelashes at Obama in search of a bailout.
- Doyle has proposed raising taxes on hospitals by hundreds of millions of dollars, expecting the federal government to match that revenue with more federal help. Of course, these taxes will be passed on to health care consumers, raising the cost of their care – while the expected federal revenue will go to help patients in the Medicaid program, not to “control costs.”
- Doyle supports a bill mandating health plans cover autism services, which increases the cost of health plans for everyone in the state.
- Doyle also signed a similar bill requiring all Wisconsin health plans to carry coverage for cochlear implants and hearing aids for kids. Again, another well-meaning piece of legislation, but one that will have the effect of raising insurance rates for health care consumers around the state.
- The current version of the state budget includes a provision that provides increased mental health coverage by insurance plans, which will be an extremely expensive new mandate.
Furthermore, Doyle’s strategy on health care hasn’t had anything to do with “controlling costs.” He merely wants to spend more in order to get more people covered by the state – which does nothing to hold down the total cost of health care.
In fact, mere months after his BadgerCare Plus proposal went into effect, the program found itself over budget by $25 million. There were no crafty cost control strategies or market forces at work here – the program followed the typical arc of a government health care program: Sign as many people up as you can, take political credit, and pass the buck when the program’s costs inevitably balloon out of control. (Doyle’s proposals to raise the cigarette tax by $1.75 in the past two budgets haven’t been because he’s looking to hold down spending.)
Which brings us to today, when Governor Doyle is going to tell President Obama about all the trouble he has had holding down the cost of health care in Wisconsin.
But by buying in to Obama’s program, Wisconsin could lose a great deal of its flexibility and autonomy to deal with health care. Instead of health programs tailored to Wisconsin’s citizens, we could easile end up with a cookie-cutter model deisgned for places like Georgia or New Mexico. The Heritage Foundation explains the loss of state sovereignty in Obama’s plan, calling it the “demise of federalism:”
Undermining State Authority
Flexibility in Name Only: States have played a significant role in developing unique and innovative approaches to address the health care needs of their citizens. During the 08 campaign, then-candidate Obama promoted the idea of state flexibility, but as President he replaced this embrace of flexibility with an embrace of federal standards. Obama has already taken numerous steps to roll back many of the flexibilities extended to states in administering Medicaid and SCHIP.
Federal Control over Health Insurance: Currently, states regulate the health insurance available in their states. Under the Obama plan, the federal government would take over the role of regulator, leaving governors and state insurance commissioners to merely implement the new federal framework.
Unknown Costs to the States: The President’s plan is estimated to cost close to $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years. There is no easy way to pay for this reform. New taxes on businesses and individuals during a time of economic recession would only hurt a state economy. Also, don’t be surprised when the states themselves are left paying for part of the bill.
In fact, Heritage may be giving President Obama a little too much credit, seeing as he really doesn’t have a plan. He has merely used the bully pulpit to stoke public opinion, including having photo-ops like the one Doyle is attending today.
So instead of meaningful health care reform that seeks to actually reduce health care costs, we will soon see more of the same overbudgeted programs that merely try to add as many names as possible to the government dole. In Wisconsin, we have between 6% and 8% of individuals without health care – but because the issue has been so completely mismanaged, Governor Doyle has to go look for even more federal bailout money.