Unfortunately, Obamacare remains the law and health care remains a political issue. The difference now is that it’s not solely Democrats who are to blame but also “moderate” Republicans that campaigned to repeal it but now side with Democrats to keep it. Ronald Reagan once quipped, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Double for politicians who, Pied Piper-like, promise people “free” health care and conflate ever-expanding and ever more bureaucratic health insurance programs like Obamacare with actual medical services.  

Health insurance is not health care but a way to pay for health care. As Americans across the country have experienced the last seven years of Obamacare, it’s also a very expensive way with rising monthly premiums, co-pays, deductibles and additional taxes. Government mandates requiring people to buy insurance and pay penalties if they don’t is not freedom but coercion and antithetical to beliefs America was founded upon.

People have always needed health care but only recently “needed” government health insurance programs which started with Medicare in 1965. Before that, even Democrats used to believe that health care was a private matter between patient and doctor. 

Now they insist that government not only be involved in health care but that government be in charge. Seeking a federal government single-payer monopolistic system, Democrats are nearing that goal.  

As predicted, Obamacare is driving insurance companies out of business. For example, 25 years ago, Kansas patients had 20 health insurance companies competing to cover and pay their medical bills. In the age of Obamacare, that number is down to just one, with that same dynamic occurring across the country. Monopoly and single-payer is not freedom or choice, it’s control.

Historically, Americans haven’t denied anyone access to health care. Using their God-given liberty in our free enterprise market system, they created the medical systems, for-profit hospitals, cures, drugs and treatments that lead the world – not the government. To assist the poor, Americans and philanthropists set up volunteer/charity and not-for-profit organizations like Catholic hospital systems and clinics including our own town’s St. Vincent’s Clinic and St John’s hospital. No one debates that system’s success improving our quality of life and longevity, but that system is imperiled and encumbered by ever-growing and onerous government control.  

Our government long ago mandated an additional safety net for those that can’t (or don’t choose to) pay for care. In 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was passed requiring hospitals accepting payments from Medicare (almost all do) to provide care to individuals seeking medical treatment, regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. Though well intentioned, EMTALA puts many hospitals, including in Kansas, in precarious financial situations. Government bureaucrats routinely delay or deny Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements to doctors and hospitals for months or under-reimburse them for actual treatment costs at pennies on the dollar. That was a major reason (and to avert the resulting bankruptcy) that Leavenworth’s Sisters of Charity sold their not-for-profit hospitals and shifted their charity work for the poor to other areas.  

Medicaid/Medicare providers and their patients are not the enemy but pretending that care is free is fantasy. Americans know medical care has costs and know how to use their freedom and money to make the choices they want. Sadly, many are choosing to believe naïve or insincere politicians hawking “free” health care and unlimited access – neither is possible in the real world.

Though she meant it in a different way, two weeks ago Times columnist Marti Crow wrote, “What we have is not acceptable. We are doomed because our governing system, not our health care system, is broken. … I want excellence and access. I want providers to be allowed to practice freely and provide the best care. There are limits on what medicine can offer; I just don’t want the limits to be imposed by dysfunctional government.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Get government and politicians out of health care and let “we the people” make the choices of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that is supposed to be our American birthright. 

Greg Beck is a Leavenworth Times columnist.