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Conservatives and Medical Freedom


If there is one thing that Republicans all over the country who are running for House and Senate seats in the upcoming election have in common, it is their opposition to Obamacare. A litmus test of their conservative bona fides is their commitment to repealing Obamacare.

Although the House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) 33 times, it is only because Republicans control the House with a 242-193 majority. Because Democrats control the Senate, there is absolutely no chance that the Senate would concur with the House on a bill repealing Obamacare. And, of course, Barack Obama would never sign a bill repealing the health-care law that bears his name. In fact, during the first presidential candidate debate held in Denver, Colorado, on October 3, the president remarked that he had “become fond of this term, ‘Obamacare.’”

Mitt Romney criticized Obamacare during that debate because it causes people to lose their employer-provided health-insurance benefits, costs $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance, cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it, puts in place an unelected board that’s ultimately going to tell people what kind of treatments they can have, and makes small businesses less likely to hire people.

In the vice presidential candidate debate held in Danville, Kentucky, on October 11, Paul Ryan mentioned people’s losing their health insurance, the $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and the unelected board, but also added that Obamacare contains 21 tax increases and is a “a government takeover of health care.”

Missing from the criticisms of Obamacare by Romney and Ryan is that it involves government in health care in the first place.

Although conservatives may criticize Obamacare for its “individual mandate,” job-killing provisions, cuts to Medicare, hidden costs, tax increases, “death panels,” and requirement that employers provide health-insurance plans that include contraceptive coverage, no one should think for a minute that they believe in real medical freedom.

Romney now says he wants to keep parts of Obamacare. In an interview on September 9 with David Gregory on Meet the Press, there was this exchange:

Gregory: On health care, you say that you would rescind the president’s health-care plan on day one. Does that mean that you’re prepared to say to Americans, young adults, and those with pre-existing conditions, that they would no longer be guaranteed health care?

Romney: Well, of course not. I say we’re going to replace Obamacare. And I’m replacing it with my own plan. And, you know, even in Massachusetts where I was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions and with young people. Everybody …

Gregory: So you’d keep that part of the federal plan?

Romney: Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health-care reform. Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.

Furthermore, in a September article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Romney proposed government regulation to “prevent insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions who maintain continuous coverage.” He also maintained that his plan would “provide support for low-income Americans and those uninsured persons whose preexisting conditions push the cost of coverage too high for them to pay themselves.”

It should come as no surprise that Romney wants to replace Obamacare with Romneycare, since he instituted his own version of Obamacare in Massachusetts when he was governor.

But it’s not just the flip-flopping, moderate conservative Romney. The “real conservatives” in the Republican Party have always believed in the federal government’s regulating every facet of health care and using the power of the state to compel some Americans to pay for the health care of other Americans.

In a speech to students at American University in Washington just after the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections, Eric Cantor, the new Republican House Majority Leader, expressed support for two of the worst provisions of Obamacare: “We too don’t want to accept any insurance company’s denial of someone and coverage for that person because he or she might have a pre-existing condition. Likewise we want to make sure that someone of your age has the ability to access affordable care if it’s under your parent’s plan or elsewhere.”

It was the conservatives who entered the House of Representatives during the “Republican Revolution” of the mid 1990s who passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996 that requires insurance companies to nullify pre-existing-condition exclusions for those who had continuous coverage and were joining a group health plan at work.

It was the same conservative Republicans who the next year created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.

It was conservative Republicans under a conservative Republican president — George W. Bush — who expanded Medicare beyond Lyndon Johnson’s wildest dreams with the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. That legislation was introduced by the Republican House Speaker, supported by the Republican House and Senate Republican leaders, passed in the House and Senate with overwhelming Republican support, and signed into law by a Republican president.

It was conservative Republicans in the House who issued a “Pledge to America” on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections that maintained,

Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick.

In their “Pledge,” Republicans propose to “support Medicare for seniors” and “protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations.”

One of the greatest spokesmen for Medicare is the conservative Paul Ryan. In his debate with Joe Biden, Ryan explained that he wanted to “reform” Medicare for “people 54 and below” and to guarantee that it doesn’t “change for people in or near retirement.” He proposed to “give younger people, when they become Medicare-eligible, guaranteed coverage options that you can’t be denied, including traditional Medicare.” Once you choose your plan, “Medicare subsidizes your premiums, not as much for the wealthy people, more coverage for middle-income people, and total out-of-pocket coverage for the poor and the sick.” Not a word about Medicare’s being welfare. Not a word about its being medical socialism. Not a word about its being an income-transfer program.

It is simply amazing that it is conservative Republicans who are the ones condemning liberal Democrats for cutting Medicare.

But it’s not just cuts to Medicare that conservatives are upset about right now. They are also up in arms about a new study that reports that more HIV-positive patients are receiving organ transplants. As usual, they miss the real issue. The federal National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 forbids compensating another person for donating an organ, such as a kidney. Why? Why do Americans not have the medical freedom to buy and sell organs? Why is the government involved in monitoring organ donations?

Moreover, I don’t see too many conservatives supporting the upcoming initiatives in three states that relate to medical marijuana. Even though marijuana is thought to provide medical benefits for certain diseases, cancer, muscle spasms, pain, loss of appetite, nausea, inflammation, and glaucoma.

Although both liberals and conservatives are as firmly committed to government intrusion into health care as they are resolutely opposed to real medical freedom, it is conservatives who must be scrutinized much more carefully.

It is no secret that most liberals in and out of Congress would have no problem not only with more government intervention into health care but also with socialized medicine and national health care. It is conservatives who talk about smaller government, less-intrusive government, fewer government regulations, individual liberty, and the free market — though they believe nothing of the kind when it comes to the subject of medicine — who are the greatest cause for concern. By opposing Obamacare and co-opting the rhetoric of libertarians they have led people to believe that they favor medical freedom, when the only difference they have with liberals is in the details of the myriad of federal laws, regulations, and mandates regarding health care and health insurance.

Real medical freedom includes the complete deregulation of the health-insurance industry with unrestricted freedom of contract, the freedom to discriminate, and the absolute right of refusal of coverage, a free market in ambulance services, a free market in medical devices, a free market in medical schools, a free market in organs, and a free market in medical marijuana.

Real medical freedom also means no special privileges for the health-insurance and pharmaceutical industries, no federal vaccination programs, no medical-licensing laws, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no SCHIP, no federal grants for medical research, no federal funding of clinical trials, no federalHIV/AIDS-prevention initiatives, no medical-records mandates, no regulation of alternative medicine, no federal laboratories, no Food and Drug Administration, no Department of Health and Human Services, no National Institutes of Health, no Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, and no Obamacare, Bushcare, Democare, or Republicare.

In short, real medical freedom means the repeal of all federal laws and regulations related to drugs, health insurance, hospitals, physicians, and medical care.

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