By Josh Penry
President Barack Obama’s plan to push American health care down the path toward socialized medicine is in the equivalent of political free fall. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans now disapprove of Obama’s health care plan, and around 75 percent of those polled flatly reject assurances from the White House that Obama-care will be “deficit neutral.” It is against this backdrop that the president will arrive in my hometown of Grand Junction to pitch his health plan.
To casual observers, the president’s choice of Grand Junction as a venue for his next campaign event may seem a bit peculiar. Residents of bright-red Mesa County, after all, chose John McCain over Obama by a large margin in the last election.
So why Grand Junction? Because Grand Junction has one of the most cost-effective and high-quality health care systems in the country. So effective, in fact, that it was recently featured in The New Yorker (along with the Mayo Clinic) as an example of health care reform that works.
As The New Yorker piece explains, in Grand Junction, “[Doctors] agreed to meet regularly on small peer-review committees to go over their patient charts together. They focused on rooting out problems like poor prevention practices, unnecessary back operations, and unusual hospital-complication rates. Problems went down. Quality went up.” The article goes on to talk about how the physicians cooperated with Rocky Mountain Health Plans to create a “community-wide electronic-record system that shared office notes, test results, and hospital data for patients across the area.”
And that is precisely why the president is coming to Grand Junction — to tell America that Mesa County makes the case for a single-payer health-care plan.
But he couldn’t be more wrong.
The Mesa Model didn’t come about because of government coercion, or an expensive, taxpayer financed “public option.” It didn’t become more cost effective by rationing care as Obama’s plan would — a plan that would, in his own words, tell elderly patients that, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” And it didn’t become more efficient by heaping a mountain of new debt and taxes onto future generations.
Big government health care isn’t what prompted private physicians in Grand Junction to work collaboratively with private insurers and their colleagues on what kinds of tests, scans, prevention techniques and other practices will best safeguard the health, lives, and wallets of patients. Doctors in Grand Junction are already doing that — and not because of any orders issued by Obama’s White House “health czar.”
In truth, Mesa County’s collaborative, community-based health care is the antithesis of the top-down, Washington-knows-best plan being trumpeted by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
What makes the president’s “government option” more troubling is the larger pattern it fits into: This administration has already expanded government control over banking, insurance and even auto manufacturing. The president and his congressional allies are betting that big government will bring us back.
But more government, more taxes and more spending aren’t the solution to our economic woes. If that were the solution, we would have never been in this economic mess in the first place after a decade of rapacious spending by a Republican Congress that lost its fiscal compass. And a federal takeover of health care will only make matters worse.
Despite Obama’s assurances that “you can keep your insurance if you’re happy with it,” it doesn’t take an economist to realize that if Obama-care becomes law, many employers will simply drop their coverage. In fact, according to the non-partisan Lewin Group, as many as 114 million Americans who now have private health insurance through their employers would lose their coverage under the Democrat plan.
If Obama’s plan doesn’t sound like it has much in common with the Mesa Model, there’s a reason: it doesn’t. At the end of the day, meaningful health care reform that will truly lower costs, increase access, and improve quality isn’t going to come from Washington, D.C., in the form of a huge tax hike, care rationing, or another one-size-fits-all federal entitlement. It will come from the kind of private-sector innovation and community-based partnerships we’ve seen in Grand Junction. If the president really listens when he’s in Mesa County, that’s what he’ll learn.
Penry is Republican leader in the Colorado Senate.