Another day, another round of polls showing the American people do not want Obamacare. National Public Radio found that likely voters disapprove of Obamacare 47%-42% with 39% strongly opposed, compared to 25% strongly in favor. Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that 42% of Americans called Obama care a “bad idea” while only 36% said it was a “good idea.” Finally, the New York Times/CBS News poll found that “Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests.”

In a follow-up interview, Democrat Mary Bevering of Fort Madison, Iowa, told the NYT: “We need to fix health care but if the government creates the system, I’m afraid the quality of care will go down and costs will go up: We will pay more taxes.” Bevering is dead-on. Reforming health care is an immense task that should be taken on gradually through experimentation, not top-down government planning. Heritage VP for domestic policy Stuart Butler writes in today’s Washington Times:

If the U.S. health care sector were a separate national economy, it would be the sixth largest in the world – bigger that Britain’s entire economy. Imagine five bickering congressional committees trying to redesign the British economy successfully in just a few weeks. No wonder people are getting nervous. … [and] the congressional majority wants to revamp the huge health care economy using the doctrine of central planning. So we have thousands of pages of legislation, with potentially hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and dozens of boards and “czars.” These will regulate prices, reorganize hospitals and doctors, and decide what health care each of us should and should not have.

Conservatives have a different vision for health care reform that builds off the great American traditions of individualism and federalism:

Expand coverage by reforming Medicaid: Millions of uninsured Americans are eligible for programs such as Medicaid, yet they don’t sign up. Policymakers should focus on approaches that are patient-centered instead of system-centered. The current Medicaid structure is based on a system that reimburses providers for the services that they supply to beneficiaries. A patient-centered approach would direct Medicaid funds to the patient and reflect the individual needs of that patient.

Incentivize Americans to make their own health care decisions: Rather than micromanage the health system via central planning, we need to get the system’s basic incentives right. Under the current system, with tax-subsidized, third-party insurance, everyone has the incentive to spend more of someone else’s money. No wonder costs are exploding. Getting incentives right means things like pushing employers to show their employees how much of their compensation comes as health insurance. That would encourage all of us to look harder to see if our insurance is good value for money and to opt for fatter paychecks and less costly fringe benefits.

Make it easier for Americans to shop for health insurance: But even if Americans were incentivized to make their own insurance decisions, it is still currently very difficult for them to find the right bargains for them under the current system. “Health Insurance Exchange” is the generic name some have given such administrative mechanisms; Utah recently enacted health reform that creates a “portal” for this purpose. This is exactly the kind of state-level experimentation that the federal government should be encouraging.

The progressive wing of Congress is now threatening to kill health care reform unless their desire for a public plan is  included. Nothing is preventing reform more than this Trojan Horse for government-run health care. We must and can get health reform. But it will never be achieved if Americans are pressured to agree to Big Bang change on a ridiculously short timetable – and based on central planning, rather than on better incentives for American creativity and federalism.

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