Ben Sasse: It’s time to stop spending $2 trillion on Medicare Part

By now everyone has heard about the White House’s Friday announcement that federal payments for prescription drugs would be slashed due to the fact that “demand for health care is growing far more slowly…

By now everyone has heard about the White House’s Friday announcement that federal payments for prescription drugs would be slashed due to the fact that “demand for health care is growing far more slowly than ever predicted when Congress designed Medicare Part D.”

The massive $2 trillion health care program for seniors was first designed in 2000 when the economy was booming and the business cycle was in full swing. Now, with the economy in recession, it is crushing the American middle class and sickening the poor. The Congressional Budget Office projects Medicare will become a break-even program in 10 years, not because of any improvement in health care but rather due to higher funding commitments to older Americans.

Those who want to hurt the poor by denying them health care say the problem is people with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart problems. These are the people who cannot afford decent medicines and cannot afford the bare minimum to live on.

The fiscally responsible solution to ending the opioid crisis is to move people with those conditions into Medicaid. They can receive the care they need without depleting the Medicare Trust Fund or threatening all taxpayers, including those who do not have health care. That’s because Medicaid is a Health Maintenance Organization, which provides care to people who do not have health insurance. Medicaid simply replaces the private insurance we are all being asked to pay more taxes for. It is a federal spending program, like Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and the military.

This is the opposite of what the far Left wants us to believe. They don’t want Medicare Part D or Medicaid because it means we are not going to have free government-run health care. We may as well adopt socialized medicine because free markets that do not subsidize government-run health care don’t work.

I have always believed that, for Americans to prosper as a nation, we must preserve our sovereignty and control our own health care. The solution is to offer these programs to all who want them. Obamacare was the first step toward socialism, and we cannot afford it.

Unfortunately, the far Left knows this, and is working to push this unrealistic agenda to its own advantage. One of their goals is to drive up the cost of health care. When I say “drive up the cost of health care,” I do not mean that higher prices lead to a higher tax bill. I mean that higher prices are a payoff for the Left to use as a scare tactic to get people on board with their agenda.

I used to be one of these scaremongers. I said an increased tax bill would be one result of our passage of Obamacare. I was so convinced the bill would increase taxes, so convinced that I called everybody that I knew in the media, including people in The New York Times and on television.

So when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed, I was completely stunned. My initial assumption was that it would increase the tax burden of every American. Instead, the nonpartisan IRS has told me that the average individual tax increase for 2019 is just $44.

I must admit it took me a few days to get it out of my system because I was convinced the bill would increase taxes on almost everybody. But last month I saw the IRS report. When I was with the American Enterprise Institute a few weeks ago, a reporter asked me how I knew that my assumption was wrong. Without missing a beat, I responded, “I just watched the IRS report.”

I am not saying tax credits are a good idea for everyone. I am saying a better approach would be a tax reform that got rid of both Obamacare and the individual mandate. With those removed, the real mess on the other side of the balance sheet would be a national emergency and much more damaging. Then, the tax credits could be enacted without the majority of government going on a tax hike spree.

This tax-credit approach would also allow us to return the health care system to the place it was when we had the vast majority of the doctors and hospitals and the required systems in place. Otherwise, the government just moves the whole debacle into the private sector, like it does with health insurance.

The problem with government-run health care is the government cannot improve or lower costs. Also, it is an inefficient and bloated waste of taxpayer dollars.

The way to solve these problems is with tax credits for health care that is sold in the private sector and regulated by the states with no federal role. This is the ultimate form of health care reform.

Yes, it is a good, old-fashioned notion called competition. It has always been the most powerful and least intrusive way to solve big problems. It has been shown to reduce costs and quality while increasing access.

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