This OP-ED appeared at Forbes.com 10/06/13
By Dr. Ben Carson & Rep. Michael Burgess
Medical practice and healthcare policy are on a collision course.
From an intellectual perspective, we are entering a golden age of the
healing arts. The full promise of genomic medicine informing
diagnosis and treatment beckons from just over the horizon. Younger
physicians, just entering practice, have the ability to alleviate human
suffering that no generation of doctors has ever previously known.
But not so fast.
The administration of health care policy, and ultimately dollars, are also
undergoing a generational shift. But this shift is founded on some of the most
irrational politics this country has ever seen. Future generations observing the
political changes of the past five years will invariably say, “what were they
The Affordable Care Act was not the product of any informed or learned
group, it was a hastily contrived political farce that was literally cobbled
together at the last possible minute. It was never intended to become law —
except that it did. For the past 3 1/2 years literally “all the kings horses, and all
of the kings men” have pushed and prodded to give it the appearance of
workability. We are on the threshold of finding out if they were successful.
In medicine, we sometimes talk about the compression of morbidities, how
the ravages of time and multiple maladies may overwhelm the patient at the
end of life. That compression sequence also seems to describe afflictions of
the Affordable Care Act as it careens towards implementation.
What a missed opportunity. For decades, the cost of healthcare and health
insurance has worried Americans. And as we get closer to the full
implementation of the Affordable Care Act, costs are not shrinking, they are
only going up — way up.
Where was the innovation when this scheme was contrived? Why not look at
some of the state models, such as the Healthy Indiana program, which
reduced costs over 10% in a two year span? Where was the study of vertically
integrated delivery systems such as the Mayo and Cleveland clinics?
Last week a headline in the Wall Street Journal reported that Walgreens has
told their employees that they were not going to pay for health insurance
coverage any longer, we will give you money instead, good luck in the
exchanges and we will see you on the other side. Walgreens is only one of
many companies such as UPS, IBM, and Trader Joe’s that have announced
that they are dropping family coverage. Several Unions wrote to the minority
leader in the House of Representatives and the majority leader in the Senate
stating: please help us. We helped you manage your phone banks and walked
neighborhoods for you. We helped you get elected. The administration is not
listening to us. They have broken the contract with working Americans by
voiding the 40 hour work. By redefining full-time employment as 30 hours,
they have essentially broken the back of the middle-class.
The American people, regardless of political persuasion, are crying out for
It’s hard to overlook the big pieces of the president’s health care plan which
are simply being ignored or jettisoned. From coverage of pre-existing
conditions, to annual caps on out-of-pocket expenditures to the suspension of
the employer requirement to provide health insurance; the administration
has signaled that in many ways it is not serious about the implementation of
And yet in hearing after hearing, directors of federal agencies maintain the
assertion that all will be ready for people on October 1 to sign up, and January
1 to receive benefits. And not to worry, order will surely emerge from this
chaos. Unless it does not.
This all leads us to the most important question. What kind of country and
ideals we want to leave to future generations?
America was supposed to be a place where people could pursue their dreams
in peace and without interference. The government was supposed to provide
them with protection without disrupting their daily lives.
We were supposed to be different than the governments of Europe which
dominated every aspect of their citizens’ lives. Obamacare represents a giant
leap toward European-style socialism. If we can agree as a nation that that is
what we truly want, let’s stop pretending to be a nation that holds the
freedoms of its citizens’ in the highest regard. If on the other hand, we are
truly a nation for, of and by the people, the people cannot be passive and
expect freedom to last.
Congressman Michael Burgess represents the 26th District of Texas. He
serves on the Rules Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee.
Dr. Ben Carson is an emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic
surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine