Have you ever wondered where Obamacare came from? From where, exactly, did those 2700 pages of undecipherable prose arise?
It is clear that our Congresspersons never read it, let alone wrote it. At the President’s “Health Care Summit” in late February it seemed pretty plain, to DrRich at least, that the only people in the room who had read the bill carefully were Republican Congresspersons Ryan and Cantor. The proponents of the bill stuck to generalities, platitudes, and vignettes about recycling dead people’s dentures. When Ryan and Cantor used their knowledge of the bill to question the President about its details, they were admonished to stop using “props.” The President was not just being mean; he needed to avoid getting into the details because he himself had only a broad general idea of what the bill actually said. This is not a slam at the President; the bill is designed to be fundamentally indeterminate in its meaning, so that the regulators who will later translate it into rules, regulations and guidelines, under which healthcare providers can then be prosecuted, can at that time interpret it as directed. This is what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said, a few days later, that Congress would have to pass the bill so that we all could find out what was in it. (This also explains why none of our legislators read it – except for those pesky Republicans, who were only trying to make trouble. What’s the point in reading a long, boring document whose actual meaning will only be sorted out later?)
So, DrRich asks again, where did this bill – whose actual meaning was elusive even to the President and the legislators who were promoting it – come from? Who actually put the words to the page, and crafted this remarkable piece of legislation?
We may never know the name(s) of the person (people) who held the pen(s) which scratched out the actual words, any more than we will ever know the real names of the individuals who wrote the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But, just as New Testament scholars have been able to trace these two gospels to a common prior source – the so-called “Q document” – it is not difficult for anyone with a smattering of interest in the art of legislative exegesis to trace the source document for our new healthcare law.
The Q Document for President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was, of course, Hillary Clinton’s Health Security Act, which went down to ignominious defeat in 1994.
DrRich, who is rapidly developing an expertise in forensic diplomatics, and having spent significant time examining aspects of the Obamacare bill, decided to go back in time, and re-examine Hillary’s original proposal for fundamentally transforming the American healthcare system.
While Hillary’s Health Security Act was widely castigated by contemporaries as being a vast monstrosity of bureaucratic legerdemain, filled with complexity and labyrinthine passages that attempted to hide its true meaning, DrRich, after spending some time with Obamacare, found Hillarycare to be a model of legislative brevity and clarity. In fact, DrRich believes, its very straightforwardness is what killed it.
For instance, Hillarycare is only 1368 pages in length. How could they be so concise?
Even more remarkably, Hillarycare spells out pretty plainly what it actually means to do. For instance, in the Obamacare bill, in order for a reader to assemble the information that the Independent Medicare Advisory Board is actually to be called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and that its “advisory opinions” which are to be submitted to Congress for “consideration” are actually formal dictates which must be followed to the letter, and that it can inflict its cost-cutting mandates to all of healthcare and not just to government programs, one must jump around to numerous distant sections in the 2700-page document. In the Hillarycare bill, in stark contrast, the analogous National Health Board (which, like the Immutables, was to have been the Supreme Court of Healthcare, beyond which there was to be no appeal, no revision, and no repeal) is presented in an entirely straightforward way, and all in one place.
And now, having immersed himself once again, however briefly, in the relatively refreshing model of clarity and precision that was Hillarycare, DrRich is convinced that the people who actually wrote the Obamacare bill (and may God keep these invaluable masters of legislative poetry safe, as we will be needing them), simply began with Hillary’s old Health Security Act, disassembled it into various bits, padded each bit with a little more than twice its weight in verbiage, and reassembled the pieces in some nearly random fashion, puzzle-like, into the exceedingly difficult-to-read document that became Obamacare.
That is, Hillarycare is demonstrably the Q document to Obamacare.
Obamacare’s debt to Hillarycare is obvious. Hillarycare included individual mandates requiring everyone to have government-approved health insurance; it reduced private health insurers to government-directed utilities, whose products, rates, and profits were to be controlled by the feds; and it created omnicient and omnipotent panels which were to hand down dictates to let doctors know what services they may or may not provide and under what circumstances.
DrRich, therefore, formally advances the thesis that if you want to understand what Obamacare is actually getting at – what with its inherent and intentional obscurity, obscurity designed with care to provide its proponents with plausible deniability – simply examine the much more straightforward model from which it was derived, namely, Hillarycare.
And this brings us, finally, to the theme of this current series of posts. For Hillarycare strictly limited, in practice, the ability of individuals to spend their own money on their own healthcare.
In this instance even Hillarycare had to be a bit obtuse. For, as DrRich’s critics have pointed out to him so very many times, Americans are jealous of their own personal liberties, and are not likely to simply tolerate a frontal assault on their right to guard their health with their own resources. And of course DrRich agrees with this idea. Indeed, the fact that Hillarycare was insufficiently obtuse on this matter had a lot to do with why it ultimately failed to become law.
The attempt at limiting individual prerogatives under Hillarycare was, to be sure, devious (though not devious enough to fool people). So it began with a straightforward statement declaring that it was not doing what it was actually trying to do: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting…an individual from purchasing any health care services.”
Now first of all, for readers who persist in thinking that restrictive language like this, when it appears in federal legislation, actually means anything in particular, let DrRich disabuse you of that notion with two examples. 1) The legislation that created Medicare contains the following language: “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize any federal officer or employee to exercise any supervision or control over the practice of medicine, or the manner in which medical services are provided, or over the selection, tenure, or compensation of any officer, or employee, or any institution, agency or person providing health care services.” (Section 1801, Medicare Act, 1965). 2) Obamacare contains language that prohibits healthcare rationing.
In any case, after making this broad promise in favor of individual liberty, Hillarycare went on to limit individual liberties. It attempted to do this in the Fraud and Abuse section of the proposed law, which sought to dry up most of private medical practice, and criminalize the rest. It provided for strict governmental controls over the fees that could be charged by fee-for-service doctors or private practitioners. And if the feds decided that a private doctor’s fees were too high, they could charge him/her with bribe-taking, a serious federal crime under the new law. Indeed, Hillarycare attempted to make illegal most of the ways patients could go outside the approved system to get “extra” healthcare. Criminal penalties could accrue to both the doctor and patient. According to Paul Craig Roberts, writing in the Washington Times in December, 1993, “Mr. Clinton’s plan turns normal patient advocacy into a federal criminal offense. For example, a doctor who wants an earlier date for surgery for a needful patient can be accused of using wrongful influence and accepting a bribe and sentenced, along with the patient, to 15 years in prison.”
While none of this got much publicity in the general media in 1993-1994 (which goes to show that things really haven’t changed that much), you can be sure that doctors were aware of it. That Hillarycare would make it so very easy to inadvertently commit a federal crime – which would lead to massive fines, loss of license, and jail – was, in fact, one of the main reasons most physicians were so violently opposed to it.
The point DrRich is trying to make here is to demonstrate just how deeply reformers feel the need to control the behavior of physicians (and through physicians, the behavior of patients) in order to gain the control they need over individuals, and just how far they are willing to go to this end. It was partly because the Clintons showed their hand in this regard that their healthcare plan failed.
DrRich will now make two final points, and then end this already-too-long post. First, while Hillarycare failed to become law, many of the over-the-top anti-fraud provisions within Hillarycare actually became the law of the land a few years later, in the HIPAA legislation. DrRich has discussed this in detail in his book, and demonstrated how, during the rest of the Clinton administration, the healthcare police worked diligently to let doctors know that their careers, life savings, and physical freedom were dependent on making the happiness of the government – and not of their patients – their chief concern. This activity stopped during the Bush presidency, and has not yet picked up again under President Obama. But the infrastructure is in place already for an unusually effective coercion of doctors, in order to keep them from providing services, and thus to keep patients from buying those services, that the government does not like. There was, in fact, no need to add this infrastructure to the Obamacare legislation. The only thing that’s necessary is for the government to decide (as it did for a few years during the 1990s) that it’s time to take off the gloves.
And second, the intent of the people who brought us Hillarycare – the same people, in philosophy if not in person, who brought us Obamacare – ought to be very plain to all of us. We know their mindset. They may not have gotten away with limiting individual prerogatives in 1994 – but they certainly tried to.
And while it is true that Americans greatly value their liberty, and will chafe at overt restrictions on their ability to use their own resources for the sake of their own health, DrRich reiterates that actually preventing these restrictions will depend on our continued vigilance, and our willingness to stop the people who so plainly want to stifle our individual prerogatives, for the sake of the control they must have.
Part 3 of Limiting Individual Prerogatives