The Buzz

'We the People' vs. Washington: Health Care and the 2016 Presidential Race

The fundamental issue facing the American public during the 2016 election is the relationship between the American people and our government. Behind all the noise and drama of this presidential campaign stands one central question: will our next president transfer yet more power to Washington? Or will he or she return power to us, to We the People.

Nothing personalizes the magnitude of this difference more than health care.

One example captures the stakes involved. After two years in remission, Barbara’s non-small cell lung cancer reappeared during the spring of 2008. Her oncologist recommended aggressive treatment with Tarceva, a new chemotherapy at the time. However, Oregon’s state run health plan denied Barbara this potentially life-altering drug. Instead, they offered to pay for physician-assisted suicide.

Those on the left argue that a “compassionate government” will provide health care for everyone. This sounds wonderful until we remember one unmovable fact: whomever pays holds the power to choose. Do “We the People” really want to give government power over the most personal aspect of our lives?

As we move ever closer to a single-payer system, physicians must increasingly answer to the strong hand of government, not their patients. When power is transferred to Washington, the weight of the federal government can be used to manipulate physician decision-making. As a physician, I see this happening regularly under Obamacare today.

We must also remember another essential point: a government bureaucracy is not intrinsically compassionate. By its very nature, government values the collective over the individual. Under a single payer system, history teaches us the physician becomes a tool of the state.

As a practicing physician, I want your doctor to remain free to serve you as an individual patient. I work to preserve a health care system where patients and their physicians remain at the center, not the periphery, of medical decision-making. This is why this presidential election so consequential.

Here is a brief summary of where the leading presidential candidates stand when graded on a scale of “We the People” vs. Government:


Pro-Patient Candidates

Dr. Ben Carson — The most pro-patient candidate is undoubtedly retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Thanks to his 30-plus years as a practicing physician, Carson understands the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship and will guard it forcefully. At a policy level, he has pledged to return power to patients by establishing Health Empowerment Accounts, increase competition among insurance companies, reform Medicare and give its enrollees pro-patient options, and return power to the states by block granting Medicaid. These are all positions endorsed by Physicians for Reform.

Senator Ted Cruz — Senator Cruz conducted a 20-hour long filibuster of Obamacare funding. His policy positions center around allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, providing patients with health care savings accounts and transferring control of Medicaid to individual states.

Senator Marco Rubio — Senator Rubio introduced legislation that blocked the taxpayer bailout of the insurance industry, promotes patient-centered reform and has worked to unravel Obamacare in Washington.


Undecided Candidates

Mr. Donald Trump — Trump has made the repeal of Obamacare central to his campaign. The difficulty, however, is that he has not supplied even the general outlines of a replacement plan (his Web site offers no position statement on health care). His lack of a plan became patently obvious during the last debate. More worrisome are some of Trump’s comments. During a recent CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, Trump clearly stated he liked the Obamacare mandate that penalizes Americans for not purchasing health care insurance. This provides a disquieting insight on how Mr. Trump views federal coercion. Americans deserve to know the details of his replacement plan.


Pro-Government Candidates

Governor John Kasich — When Gov. Kasich chose to expand Medicaid in Ohio, he made three fundamental mistakes. First, by accepting more federal dollars, he made Ohio even more dependent on Washington. Rather than moving his state toward independence, he bound Ohio ever more tightly to the dictates of Washington. Second, patients under Medicaid, have the worst health care outcomes, sometimes experiencing a higher mortality rate than patients with no insurance at all. Third, our social welfare system traps people in poverty. We must use free market reforms to fundamentally restructure Medicaid to improve patient outcomes and lift lower income Americans out of poverty. By expanding Medicaid, Kasich revealed his willingness to expand the power of government in his bid to chase federal dollars.

Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders — Clinton has long sought a government run health care system and Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist. The difficulty in buying public affections with other people’s money is that at some point the money runs out—which will soon be the case with our staggering federal debt that now stands at more than $19 trillion. At that point, the government will ration care and take care of the most “productive” members of society. Patients such as Barbara will then learn the true meaning of government compassion.