Ever since President Clinton unveiled his health-care scheme, thousands of experts have been looking at it carefully. The results of this widespread, intensive study are now rolling in.
Here are some of the recent developments.- Senator Moynihan's bombshell: On Jan. 9, 1994, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the most astute politician in the health-care field, declared to a national television audience that "we don't have a health-care crisis in America."
Wow. I have known Moynihan for 25 years, and, while I often disagree with his policy predilections, he is one of the keenest policy analysts we have, a man who does not use words lightly. Those nine words neatly cut the legs out from under the health plan that Hillary ginned up for Bill.
If there is no "health-care crisis," then why are we jeopardizing what we are told is the best health-care system in the world to experiment?
- Professor Enthoven's bombshell: On Jan. 12, Alain C. Enthoven, a Stanford University professor, declared that Clinton's health plan "would not work and should be completely rewritten." In Enthoven's judgment, the "Clinton plan puts the federal budget at enormous risk and will result in huge tax increases."
Wow. I have known Enthoven for almost as many years as I have known Moynihan. An early supporter of Clinton's program, he is brilliant and judicious, and he is the leading expert on health-care reform in the United States. Enthoven's flat denunciation lays bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the 1,342-page monster health bill now sitting in Congress.
While Moynihan's words cut the legs off Clinton's health plan, Enthoven's words slice off its head.
- The economists' bombshell: On Jan. 14 a letter to President Clinton, signed by 562 economists (including me), both Democrats and Republicans, made the simple but vitally important point: "Price controls produce shortages, black markets and reduced quality. This has been the universal experience in the 4,000 years that governments have tried to artificially hold prices down using regulations."
Clinton's price controls, if implemented, would wreck our health-care system. Every good economist knows this.
Why are so many of the nation's top health policy experts holding up their hands and saying that President Clinton and his aides are wrong - that what is being proposed to fix that nonexistent crisis would, instead, create a real crisis?
The answer is twofold. First, it takes time to come to grips with the details of any new social welfare program as large and complex as the one Clinton proposed. Second, the most intractable problem in our health-care system - sharply accelerating costs - has suddenly and unexpectedly tamed itself.
On Jan. 13 the Labor Department announced that in 1993, as the Clintons' and the nation's attention bore down on the profession, medical costs in the United States registered the smallest gain in 20 years. The costs are still going up, but for the past three years the trend has been for the rate to ease somewhat. They increased 7.9 percent in 1991, 6.6 percent in 1992 and just 5.4 percent in 1993.
It is time we stopped fooling around with Clinton's health-care schemes. They may be satisfying to the souls of 1960s-era left-wingers, but the whole melange of "changes" that the Clintons would like to foist on us are downright dangerous - dangerous to our health, dangerous to our privacy and dangerous to our pocketbooks.