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Jeff Malet/JMP/NewsCom

Don't forget Obamacare

Q&A | Possible presidential candidate Rick Santorum says America's future depends on stopping disastrous healthcare overhaul

Issue: "2010 Election: The Governors," Oct. 23, 2010

Some veteran politicos think American voters are memory-challenged: Will they truly surge to the polls to express their disdain for a piece of legislation passed at the beginning of this year? Former Sen. Rick Santorum, now a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a potential candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, doesn't want Americans to forget about Obamacare. Here's his analysis of the healthcare legislation that became law earlier this year.

Q: What's your take on it? It's the most ambitious power grab I've ever witnessed. Passing the bill took the typical means-to-end process in Washington, D.C., and amped it up another notch to whatever it takes. It's like saying, "Let's play Monopoly, but the rules don't really matter."

Q: Were there more deals than usual in exchange for votes? A senator getting money to help his state in exchange for a vote is not a big deal. It happens. But the thing that made some flips unusual or egregious was the high-minded talk about protecting the lives of the unborn. This was money in exchange for conceding on abortion: "Give me $100 million and I'll give up on the right to life." That's different from a highway-funding formula.

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Q: What about the executive order that purportedly keeps the new medical regime from pushing abortion? It can be changed tomorrow. When you have a president who is by all accounts the most pro-abortion president in the history of this country . . .

Q: How pro-life are pro-life Democrats? Not one Democrat in the United States Senate, pro-life or otherwise, voted against the Senate bill. There was an attempt to put stronger provisions into the bill. Several pro-life Democrats voted for it, but not enough to win, and they easily set aside their concerns: They drafted some language that sounds like it prohibits abortion funding, but in practice does not. Lots of people have been fooled by this language and these procedures. That's the game that a lot of pro-life Democrats play. In the end, they are more committed to the growth and expansion of the U.S. gov­ernment than they are to protecting human life.

Q: So on the new law as a whole, why should we be concerned? Some things are good ideas-for example, the provision that college students can be covered by their parents' insurance until they're 26. It will cost money, and insurance rates will go up because of that, but not much. The sob stories about the preexisting condition clause-so and so had breast cancer and couldn't get health care-well, they are basically not true. Are there cases? Yes, but a federal law already says that if you have insurance through your employer, have a preexisting condition, then move to another job, your insurance company can't bar you because of your preexisting condition.

Q: What about the talk that some people could not get insurance? The only people who cannot get insurance are people who are already sick. The assumption is that we should not insure people who come to the insurance company after they've been sick-because if you allow anybody who's sick to come into the insurance system, then no one will buy insurance until they're sick. We've now changed that.

Q: Under the bill every person in America is supposed to have insurance . . . And if you don't have insurance you pay a fine. The problem is that the fine is substantially less than the cost of insurance. First off, there's a question as to whether you can require anybody as a condition of living in this country to make a private purchase, to purchase insurance. A lot of people believe that is unconstitutional. Second, the preexisting condition clause will increase the number of uninsured, because healthy people will make rational decisions not to buy insurance if they are sure that once they're sick they can be covered for anything that's wrong with them: Save the money and pay the fine. This law will drive up rates, because there will be fewer healthy people in the pool.

Q: Why should young, healthy people be against the bill? Because in the end the cost of insurance for everybody will go up. Eventually they will want to get into the system and it will cost a fortune. It's only one element of the bill, too. The cost of insurance will go up because the federal government will mandate a very expensive basic policy, because special interest groups have lobbied to get certain things into it.

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