Two years ago, on March 23, 2010, the new health care law was signed into being so that "we could all see what is in the bill," as Nancy Pelosi promised. Other promises repeated over and over by its backers and the media: "You can keep your doctor." "The new law will bend the cost curve downwards." "Health insurance will be more affordable." "No one will have to violate his/her conscience." "The new law will not add to the deficit."
Two years have given us time to see what's in the bill. It is an ugly picture indeed. The promises all turned out to be empty rhetoric. Worse than just false promises, however, are the actual harms already done, and worse worse on the way.
Since Sir Thomas Sydenham in the 1600s, medicine's tradition has been "First, do no harm." If a "treatment" may cause more damage than doing nothing, it is often better to do nothing.
Instead, this bill does more of harmful things. The federal government has been put in charge of every medical decision that exists, including type of insurance you must purchase OR pay a penalty; what the insurance must pay for; what insurance can cost; what medical specialists will be reimbursed and at what rates; what treatments are allowed, and for whom, at what age; what medical screening tests are approved or not approved; who may or may not own hospitals; and what taxes are imposed on individuals, businesses, medical device makers, and pharmaceutical companies.
Some harms have already happened: Health insurance premiums up 9 percent in 2010, another 9 percent in 2011, and more increases ahead; loss of patients' privacy and control of their personal medical records, when the Secretary of Health and Human Services ruled in October 2011 that all private medical insurance companies must send all patient data to Washington's central database – without the patient's permission; jobs lost and new ones not created because employers cannot afford higher premiums to pay for all of the "free" services the government now requires; Medicare facing cuts of $500 billion to pay for medical care for younger people in Medicaid; loss of medical specialists in many fields due to fee cuts; higher taxes on medical devices, which in turn are passed on to consumers; a massive increase in the projected deficit as the Congressional Budget Office has doubled the estimate of cost it gave before the bill was passed.
More harms are still to come. Doctors will be driven out of business by costly new rules. Insurance companies will close because they can't cover the new mandates. Private options for medical care and health insurance won't exist. New drugs and treatments will not be developed because of more taxes and regulations. Rationing of care will begin as costs rise, budgets are depleted, and fewer doctors are there to see patients.
In the ultimate hypocrisy, the president, who has forbidden Catholics and others to exercise their own right of conscience in choosing the insurance they provide, is now, according to The New York Times, using taxpayer dollars for "an aggressive campaign … to build support for the new health care law … (with) a prayer vigil … outside the Supreme Court … beginning March 26."
Government-controlled medicine is a singular threat to Americans' liberty and tradition of religious and medical freedom. Currently, about 49 percent of Americans depend on some type of federal government benefit. With the new health care law, it will be 100 percent of Americans dependent on the government.
The health care law is a massive power grab to control your money, your medical treatment options, your businesses, your liberty, and ultimately your life. If government-controlled health care is allowed to stand, it is the end of freedom in America.
It is time for the new law to die before it kills American medicine, American patients, American liberty, and the economy. Instead, we need true reform that puts the power and freedom back into the hands of patients and their physicians.
Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.
(Dr. Vliet is a preventive and climacteric medicine specialist with medical practices in Tucson AZ and Dallas TX)