A land shark called health care

Someone’s knocking at the door, the young woman inside the apartment asks who’s there, and a pleasant voice replies, "flowers." The woman is suspicious, and is then told "plumber," and later "candy-gram."

It’s really a shark — a land shark that hangs out in urban areas, or at least in the old "Saturday Night Live" skits — and it finally tricks the woman into thinking it’s a dolphin. She opens the door and is devoured.

This was all very, very funny when the movie "Jaws" was a hot topic, but what’s not so funny is the congressional version we’ve lately been seeing in Washington.

Congress comes knocking and says, "stimulus package, low unemployment," proffering a long, hurry-up-and-pass-it, $800 billion bill no one has had time to read. From it, we get tons of pork. We get welfare-state extensions. We get no stimulation, but the highest jobless rate in a more than two decades.

Then the House comes knocking, saying "cap-and-trade, save the planet," passing another bill no one has had time to read, a cumbersome, massively interventionist, sneak-tax measure that will increase everyone’s utility payments, restrict industrial productivity and transfer great wealth from this nation to poorer countries while achieving something on the order of nothing.

Now Congress is knocking again, saying "new bill coming, great, cheap health care for everyone," thinking maybe the public is ready to be tricked by yet another document of 1,000 pages and more, even if it portends increased joblessness, health rationing by the government, a soak-the-rich dodge and baby steps toward a vast new entitlement on top of tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for entitlements we can’t afford now.

Some of this wonderful care under a House proposal is supposed to come from small businesses with payrolls as low as $250,000. They would have to provide insurance or pay a penalty, and, in a blink, you see how Democrats think — these businesses, in their view, are greed buckets, making much more than they need to survive and easily able to pony up additional bucks. Many can’t. They would have to go out of business.

Any semblance of health-care liberty is out the window with this bill — none but the tiniest businesses have any choice about what they do, insurance companies would have to provide insurance even to those already sick and citizens would have to buy insurance whether they want to or not.

If all that’s not socialist control enough, there will be a new public insurance provider, thereby going past the 46 percent of health care the government now pays for, helping to add maybe $1 trillion in costs over the next decade, and beginning to usher in the kinds of treatment controls that mark single-payer systems many patients in other countries have learned to abhor.

The big gimmick here is the assurance that most of us will avoid the extra costs while the rich will foot the bill, as if it’s not democratically destructive to have one segment of the population always paying for everyone else’s government services and as if the rest of us won’t feel the pain at some point, through deficits, through diminished entrepreneurship and more.

To be sure, our current health system is an unholy jumble, but the left has worked overtime to exaggerate certain of its shortcomings and has seemed less interested in truly interesting reform possibilities than in extending the reach of a government that is already dangerous in its leviathan clumsiness.

The public has some say in all of this, through letters, phone calls and other ways of communicating with members of Congress, and my advice is to let it be known you aren’t opening the door, that you know a land shark when you hear one.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)