Pro & Con: Is health care reform a ‘government takeover’? YES: The law gives government the power to determine ‘essential’ services.

PolitiFact.com, the online oracle of all things true and untrue in America’s political debate, is wrong in saying it is the “lie of the year” to call “Obamacare” a government takeover of health care.

The proclamation shows that its editors need a Truth-O-Meter of their own. Obamacare is a uniquely American government takeover of health care. Its 2,801 pages of legislation and insidious regulatory structure give the secretary of Health and Human Services almost unlimited authority to rule over every corner of our health sector.

The legislation that passed in March creates the architectural drawings for the government-controlled system the administration is busily constructing.

Because the law doesn’t call for an immediate nationalization of hospitals or include the “public option” that liberals wanted, PolitiFact claims that it isn’t a government takeover. Even worse, it says Obamacare “relies largely on the free market” to achieve health reform.

PolitiFact disregards the legitimate fears of millions of Americans who spontaneously rose up in town hall meetings, marches, and voting booths to protest Obamacare. Here are 10 reasons why most Americans are right that this is a government takeover of health care:

For the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government will order citizens to spend our private money on a private product – health insurance – and will penalize us if we refuse. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson asked in a Florida courtroom whether that would mean the government “can decide how much broccoli everyone should eat each week.” U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson recently ruled in Virginia v. Sebelius that the individual mandate “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”

The federal government also will determine what health benefits are essential – not us, and not our doctors.

Doctors and hospitals will face an avalanche of new reporting rules to make sure they are providing health care that fits the government’s definition of “quality care.”

The legislation creates the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute that is modeled on rationing boards in other countries with government-run health systems. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the U.K., for example, has a record of denying access to the newest drugs, with government officials often deciding they just aren’t worth the cost. That’s already happening here with the FDA’s recent withdrawal of its approval for Avastin.

Obamacare provides the foundation – and $6 billion – for a stealth public plan. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program will help set up nonprofit, member-run health insurance companies in all 50 states.

States are being treated like contractors to the federal government, ordered to expand Medicaid to levels that could bankrupt them, and to set up new health-exchange bureaucracies lest the federal government sweep in and do it for them.

Government has the authority to destroy the private insurance market by preventing insurers from earning a reasonable return. If companies charge “unreasonable” premiums, as determined by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, she can block them from participating in a huge sector of the market – as she already has threatened to do. Columnist Michael Barone calls this “gangster government.”

Any employer with more than 50 employees will be told it must provide government-decreed health insurance to its workers – or face financial penalties.

As many as 80 to 100 million people will not have the option of keeping the coverage they have now, per President Obama’s promise. According to analyst Allisa A. Meade of McKinsey & Co., they will be switched into other policies after the insurance mandates take effect in 2014 – whether they like it or not.

Obamacare expands Medicaid, the worst health plan in the country, to cover 84 million people by 2019, stretching yet another of our government-run health programs to the bursting point.

My colleague, health attorney John Hoff, in a paper for the Heritage Foundation, calls Obamacare “a new exercise in old-fashioned central planning.” PolitiFact needs to revisit its decision or it will soon find that its own pants are on fire.

Published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 29, 2010 and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jan. 3, 2011.

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