Tom Burditt’s (R-Rutland) speech on the House Floor during debate on H.202 March 24, 2011

by Rep. Tom Burditt

Mr. Speaker,

I don’t know if I should be disappointed with my party, enamored by the left, or disgusted by the partisan politics.

You see, Mr. Speaker, several amendments have been introduced over the last two days, by my party. Every one shot down in flames! That would lead me to believe that either we on the right are ignorant, or the left is arrogant. What I think is the that the super majority thinks the bills brought forward are perfect in every way.

I digress…..

One of the biggest myths being propagated today is the absurd notion that “people can’t see a doctor without having insurance.” The truth is, office visits are relatively cheap, well within the means of most people. The problem is most people don’t budget anything for their annual medical care. Then, when a problem arises, any expense greater than zero isn’t in the budget.

The other problem is that insurance really isn’t insurance anymore. It is pre-paid health care. True insurance is intended to prevent financial disaster in the face of an unlikely event. Most people have come to expect first dollar coverage for everything, including very common and likely events, like routine doctor visits. Covered employees don’t realize it’s their money going to pay for this wonderful, non-bargain, first dollar coverage. It’s not a “free” benefit provided by their employer, as most employees believe. These costs are essentially hidden from employees. Money their employer wastes in purchasing first dollar coverage or inferior managed care coverage for the employee is money which would have been the employee’s salary in the first place, to spend as they choose.

The reason most people obtain their health insurance from their employer is because of tax discrimination. During World War II, our government enacted wage and price controls. Employers couldn’t attract better workers by offering higher wages, but were allowed to offer health insurance as an untaxed benefit.

Although World War II ended over 65 years ago, this same tax discrimination policy remains in effect today. This atrocious policy discriminates against the working poor, part-time employees, employees working for small businesses that don’t offer health insurance, and the self-employed. Those who obtain their health insurance through their employer purchase their coverage with pre-tax dollars. On the other hand, those who purchase their health insurance on their own, purchase it with after-tax dollars – a huge difference!

In fact, the uninsured actually end up paying what amounts to a tax penalty for being uninsured. It is fact that “a family in the bottom fifth of the income distribution pays hundreds of dollars more in taxes than insured families at the same income level. For families in the top fifth of the income distribution, the tax penalty can be in the thousands. On the average, uninsured families pay about $1,200 more in federal taxes each year because they do not have employer-provided insurance. Collectively, the uninsured pay about $18 billion in extra taxes each year because they do not receive the same tax break as insured people with similar income. If state and local taxes are included, the extra taxes paid by the uninsured nears $20 billion per year.”

Where, we must ask, has the compassion for these overtaxed, hard-working people been? This is clearly a government created problem. What we don’t need is more government to fix it! What we don’t need is socialized health care to fix it! What we do need is to get government out of our wallets so people can have their own money needed to purchase and own their own health insurance.

The other thing the pro-socialist “crisis mongers” fail to tell people is that only one-third of the uninsured are chronically uninsured. For the other two-thirds, it is only a short, temporary condition. “Half of all uninsured spells will last less than six months. Three-fourths of them will be insured within 12 months. Only 18 percent of all last for more than two years.”

Those who brandish “the crisis of the uninsured” to promote socialized medicine also often fail to tell people that “uninsured” doesn’t necessarily mean “poor”. In fact, the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) tells us that “a third of the uninsured households earn more than $35,000 a year and 10 percent earn more than $55,000.” One in five live in households making $75,000 plus per year. That’s at least 40 percent of the so-called “uninsured” that could well afford a $60 office visit or health insurance. We need to get away from the concept that “someone else” – big government or insurance – needs to take care of our every need.

The other adverse consequence of this tax discrimination is that it led to cost inflation of medical care. Everyone came to believe that we were spending “other people’s money”. And, when you’re spending “other people’s money”, the sky is the limit. Patients have been told that they are getting “free” insurance from their employer, and quite naturally came to expect everything they wanted or desired, whether of marginal benefit or not, would be “fully covered”. Likewise, the physician who “participated” in insurance and was paid directly by the insurance company for everything with “other people’s money”, had no disincentive to hold down costs. The patients came to view these “participating” physicians as good and compassionate because the physicians would accept their insurance and the patient would have to pay little or nothing out of pocket, not realizing that “other people’s money” was actually their money all along.

Therefore, both patient and participating physician contributed to this disrupted market, where both buyer and seller were insulated from costs, thus leading to uncontrollable cost inflation. The problem of cost inflation was further compounded by the cost of government regulation. Government mandates increase the costs of health insurance tremendously, and the mandates are often for things that people don’t want or need. Yet, they are forced to pay for the coverage. These mandated benefits included wigs for bald-headed women in Minnesota, pastoral marital counseling here in Vermont, and community sperm bank services in Massachusetts.

A few years ago in New York state, most health insurance premiums doubled as a result of state-mandated community ratings. This has made health insurance especially hard to afford for the young and healthy, who are in effect punished by the state for being young and healthy, and for not engaging in unhealthy behavior. State mandates, which were purportedly instituted to “help” people, have thus had the effect of pricing many people out of the health insurance market. This is predictably what happens when we look to big government to help us.

Indeed, “universal coverage”, “nationalized health care”, or “socialized medicine” – regardless of what you choose to call it – is not the same as medical care. All of the citizens of Canada, for instance, have “universal coverage”. What they often don’t have is the medical care that they need, when they need it. That is why we see Canadians crossing the border into the United States in droves to obtain the health care that they can’t get when they need it in their own country. Their government rations access to health care, and thus attempts to control costs, thus making MRI scans, radiation oncology, bypass surgeries and many other health services largely unavailable to their own people. Is this the egalitarian’s view of compassion and social justice?

There are many options out there. Most people could purchase a high deductible indemnity insurance policy at a lower price than they would pay for monthly managed care premiums. That’s right…a much higher quality of health care at a lower price! Imagine having the freedom to choose the doctor or hospital you want to go to – being able to go to specialists without denials, delays, or gatekeepers. The money saved by purchasing a high-deductible catastrophic policy could be set aside in a savings account to pay for deductibles. The money saved by purchasing a high-deductible policy could also be used to pay for the insurance premiums. That’s just one idea not looked at in this bill.

Those in favor of nationalized health care, of course, don’t want to give you control of your own money. Government elites feel that they can better spend your money than you can. This is the real message that they don’t want you to hear.

One important aspect of our health care industry that is largely ignored is charity. No hospital ever turns any patient away because of lack of funds. Hospitals and the physicians on call at those hospitals are required by law to treat all patients, irrespective of ability to pay. We do it all the time. It’s a total myth that you can’t come to the hospital because you “don’t have insurance” or “can’t pay”. Charity is something that should involve churches, not big government. What big government does is confiscate money from all, including the minimum wage earner, and redistributes it based upon some social engineering scheme. It’s legalized plunder. True charity comes from the heart, not from forced contributions. Most churches and true charitable agencies understand the dependency trap of big government programs. They understand that it does no good in the long run to give a man fish for his dinner. This does not help him. To help a man, you must teach him to fish. The goal should be to help a man back to his feet so he can support himself and his family, not to trap them in a cycle of dependency. That is what dignity and self-esteem are all about. That is what true compassion is all about.

I find it very sad in a country where men and women have died fighting to preserve our freedom, and have died fighting off socialism, communism and most recently Radical Muslim beliefs, that some are now considering socialized medicine as a solution to improving access to health care.

Lenin once said, “Medicine in the keystone in the arch of socialism.” I believe those who are promoting “universal coverage” via government-run and government-controlled medicine know this. What they hope is that the public won’t find out the truth. There is nothing compassionate about socialism. This is why the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons gives a high priority to educating other physicians and the public about the truth of socialized medicine. That is why the AAPS should be joined and supported by all!

In closing – yes, we need health care reform, but it needs to be based upon the principles of individual freedom and individual responsibility.