Model for health-care reform?

Is Tom Daschle the 2009 version of Ira Magaziner? Mr. Daschle, named as President-elect Barack Obama’s health and human services secretary, will attempt to create a universal health-care system just as Ira Magaziner attempted under the Clinton administration. In 1993, Mr. Magaziner helped write and push a bill that would have nationalized health care. The plans and tactics may be different, but both men have the same ends – to drastically increase government control over our health care.

Their plans to achieve that end, however, are different. Mr. Daschle and Mr. Obama have learned from Mr. Magaziner and Bill Clinton’s past mistakes in health-care legislation and are prepared to take control of health care more cleverly this time.

Mr. Magaziner worked behind closed doors with Hillary Clinton and rest of the Clinton administration’s policy team to write a 1,400-page bill that would have forced government mandated and regulated health insurance on every citizen and permanent resident in the United States. The coverage Mr. Magaziner and the Clintons advocated was far-reaching and eliminated consumer choices.

The bill was stopped in Congress, partly because it was so big and detailed that the consensus to nationalize health care that existed early in the administration fell apart over specifics. It had too many fine points over which politicians could and did fight, and to which the American people could object, which they did. For example, Mr. Clinton’s bus tour to drum up support for legislation was met by protesters rather than supporters at nearly every stop.

In his book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis,” Mr. Daschle outlines his plan to transfer control over health care to the government and his scheme to slip it past the American people. Having learned from Mr. Magaziner and the Clintons’ failure, Mr. Daschle writes that the legislation should be purposefully vague. He explains it should simply call for shifting the power of health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, rather than trying to pass detailed legislation through a skeptical Congress.

The bureaucrats, then, could do what they do best – expand their power, until they achieved Mr. Daschle’s goal of nationalized mandated health care for all Americans.

Mr. Daschle proposes setting up a board, modeled after the Federal Reserve, which would manage the health-care systems that government already runs (Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Health Administration) and remove them from congressional oversight. The board would set standards for all the government-run health care in the country and Congress would be able to give the board more power to regulate the private health-care industry or to expand the coverage provided by the government.

The board would be “charged with establishing the system’s framework and filling in most of the details. This independent board would be insulated from political pressure,” Mr. Daschle writes. By political pressure, he means the voters, the doctors, the insurance industry and the consumers who would oppose the nationalization of health care and did oppose it in the early 1990s.

Mr. Daschle’s nonspecific policy goals will likely lead to the health-care sector’s version of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) – the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. TARP, which was sold as being established to purchase troubled assets from banks, now has been tapped by the executive branch to bail out automakers as a way to step around Congress and spend tax- payer money. The Bush-Paulson model of legislation threatens congressional power by handing it over to appointed bureaucrats and the executive branch.

John Locke writes in his Second Treatise on Government, that the power to “make laws” does not confer the power to “make legislators” – that is, Congress should not, according to Locke, have the power to delegate the ability to create law to another branch of government, which is exactly what happened with TARP and exactly what Mr. Daschle wants to happen with government-run health care.

The Founders wrote the Constitution, in part, to separate the powers of delegation and execution, not to allow one branch of government to hand over their powers to another like Congress did with TARP and Mr. Daschle would have them do with health care.

Nothing in the Constitution empowers Congress to delegate its powers to another branch. Under Mr. Daschle’s plan to delegate, members of Congress will be able to blame the bureaucrats for not doing what was intended – just like they are now with the $700 billion Wall Street bailout – and not face the consequences of their unconstitutional delegation of lawmaking authority.

While we cannot know the specifics of a plan that will likely be crafted by the administration over the next few months, we can be certain it will not be the sweeping bill that Ira Magaziner and the Clintons tried to pass in the ’90s. Many plans have been proposed already – the Baucus plan, the Wyden-Bennet plan, the Kennedy plan, the Daschle plan, Mr. Obama’s plan on the campaign trail, and others.

The coalition to increase government involvement in health care may splinter over the details like they did during the Clinton administration. But if Mr. Daschle has his way, they will try to sneak a bill through Congress that will hand over power to the executive branch while leaving out details.

Our health-care policy is in need of reform. Mr. Daschle’s plan just offers more of the same government regulation that has helped to drive health care costs so high in America.

Matt Kibbe is president of the FreedomWorks Foundation, a grass-roots education organization that believes in lower taxes, less government and more freedom.

Related Content