The WSJ had a very interesting article the other day (“Social Security Owes ‘Fugitives’ Millions”, September 26, 2009 by Ellen E. Schultz) describing how the Social Security Administration (SSA) withholds benefits payments from “fugitive felons”. The article describes a well intentioned process to withhold SSA benefits payments from “fugitive felons”. This was done to save taxpayers money, of course. And, it was done with the best of intentions no doubt.
The “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996” began to withhold benefits such as food stamps, housing, temporary assistance to needy families and the like. In 20001 it was extended to veterans benefits to include veteran’s dependents. By 2003 HUD (Housing and Urban Development) was also included. Continuing the trend of these good works the 1996 act was finally extended to SSA in 2005.
There are several levels of concern. First, keep in mind that the bureaucrats in charge of Obama’s health care plan will also have detailed operations manuals instructing them in every detail of the nation’s health care. Details such as who qualifies for a particular medical procedure and which medications are going to be available to what patient. Now, let’s go back to Ms. Schultz’s article. She writes that the SSA bureaucrats “… relied on an operations manual stating that anyone with a warrant outstanding is a fugitive felon …”. This meant that if you forgot (or failed) to pay some parking tickets and a bench warrant was issued you might be classified as a “fugitive felon”. Even though you are neither a fugitive nor a felon SSA would classify you as such and would then withhold your benefits. Okay, so the bureaucrats are a little energetic. No real harm right?
Second, the SSA bureaucrats would not even use a common sense understanding of the operations manual. As a result of their wanton disregard for even a shred of common sense, a 79 year old retired woman who only had the same first name, maiden name and birth date as an actual wanted felon was denied benefits. But the felon was a different race and gender, had a different social security number, different middle name and his last name was different from the woman’s actual, married last name (remember, only her maiden name was the same). Those benevolent bureaucrats didn’t check SSA numbers, gender, race, age, middle or actual names but nevertheless concluded this woman should have her benefits denied.
Not bad enough? Third, the SSA bureaucrats had to be forced to correct their obvious error. The woman contacted the New York City police where a detective gave her a letter stating she was not the fugitive in question. The SSA bureaucrats would not accept the letter. Apparently they knew better than some NYC police detective who was actually looking for the felon. The poor woman had to get help from a legal aid attorney to get her benefits reinstated. But what about the other “… at least 200,000 elderly and disabled people who lost their benefits …” you might ask? Who helped them?
Now consider a public, national health care system similar to Canada or Britain. It’s bad enough to have your SSA benefits unfairly denied. But what if some bureaucrat deep inside the Obama’s health care system decides their operations manual does not permit someone in your circumstance to obtain a surgical procedure or medication? Perhaps they mistook you for someone older and sicker. Or their operations manual was so confusing they had no idea what to do and so did nothing. Now what do you do? Call Congress? What ought to scare the bejeebers out of everyone is the prospect of a massive contingent of bureaucrats inside of Obama’s health care plan implementing their operations manual in a manner similar to that of the SSA bureaucrats and fugitive felons.
Fourth, let’s look at the “fugitive felon” situation from another view. Take the other side so to speak. The act initiating the “fugitive felon” process was passed in 1996. It took NINE YEARS for it to get all the way over to SSA. Suppose it was a beneficial medical procedure. How happy would you be to see Californians getting the procedure while North Carolinians were still being denied?
Of course, if you die all these concerns become moot for you. Gosh, that’s too bad for you. If your health merely worsens while you attempt to straighten out the disagreement will a bureaucratic “my bad” make you feel better? Maybe, but it’s not likely. Will you have to hire a lawyer to get the issue resolved? Won’t that be fun?
Does any of this happen today with private insurance companies? Sure. But it is unlikely to happen nationwide as it did with SSA and most certainly will with Obama’s health care plan. Bureaucrats are the same mindset the world over. Still with all the flaws of private insurance you at least have the ability to appeal to the courts for assistance. And when you do, you know that the government does not have a vested interest in the outcome. Not so with Obama’s health care plan.
Obama’s health care plan promises no harm and great benefit for the many. Given every other government program it is far more likely to do the opposite. Harm the many and benefit the few. If you want health insurance for the few people who can’t afford it and who are here legally then all that has to be done is extend Medicaid and raise all our taxes. If you also want insurance reform then debate the issues and give the public an opportunity to decide. The Medicaid extension can be done quickly. There is time to debate insurance reform.