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Repeal Obamacare

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013 6:00 am

American employers don't pay half the home heating costs of their employees.

They don't pay for half the food in their employees’ refrigerators.

They don't pay for half their employees’ mortgages or half their car payments.

So why do the overwhelming majority of American business owners pay for half the health insurance costs of their employees?

It's an accident of history.

In the early 20th century, few people went to hospitals for health care and there was no such thing as an emergency room.

Most poor Americans — which was the majority of the country — if they got sick either got better or got buried.

For those who could afford a doctor, most care was a mixture of inexpensive home remedies and aspirin.

Then we discovered vaccines and antibiotics. We invented diagnostic technologies, blood tests and other methods for detecting, then curing, illnesses. Health care became increasingly expensive.

In Texas in the 1920s a hospital began a plan in which people could pay a few dollars a month to a fund that could only be used to pay for health care when needed.

It became Blue Cross. The company started marketing the plan to businesses as a benefit for their employees.

But that's not what made employer health plans take off. In 1943, during World War II, when millions of Americans left farms for war factories, the federal government encouraged war contractors to offer health care to their workers.

And to give them a boost, they made a portion of health care premiums tax deductible.

Soon, unions (back when unions mattered) began negotiating for employer subsidized health plans.

And it grew from there.

It wasn't by design. No president stumped for it. No candidate for senator bellowed, "Give me employer-subsidized health care or give me death!"

And so today we have one of the most complicated systems of health care delivery in the modern world.

We have argued about what to do about it for decades. In case you weren't around, even President Richard Nixon campaigned on reforming the national health care system in 1972.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was supposed to be reform. It isn't. It's a mess.

It's an incredibly complex complication of an already complex system. It simply makes the problem of employer subsidized health care worse by mandating businesses with more than 50 employees purchase health care for their workers.

Even though that mandate has been delayed, barring some miracle change in the Congress next November creating a veto-proof House and Senate, the mandate will go into effect before President Obama leaves office.

The rising costs of health care on American businesses are a drag on productivity and profitability. Businesses not only have to purchase part of the health insurance for their workers, they have to hire human resources staffs or contractors to help manage the complex plans, adding more cost to the company.

Exacerbating the problem is the alteration of the health care market by massive federal health care spending through Medicare and Medicaid. More than 100 million Americans get government paid-for health insurance.

The complex public-private health system in the United States drives up costs through its wasteful inefficiency. We spend billions just shuffling papers around.

Relieving American employers of the burden of subsidizing the health care of their workers would improve profitability, spur investment and increase jobs.

Our nation cannot long endure a health system that is half private and half public.

It must become all one thing or all the other.

Let's repeal Obamacare and try again.

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