Hidden In Health Care Reform

What’s hidden in health care reform that you haven’t heard about? Plenty. Without a news media interested in questioning the contents of the legislation, how could you know about the punitive taxes and job-killing provisions lurking in it?

My clients in the restaurant industry alerted me to the House bill’s mandate that all restaurants and retail establishments that are part of chains, franchise groups or multi-brand groups of more than 20 outlets be required to prominently post accurate calorie counts for most food items sold – including items on salad bars and buffets or self-serve counters.

Maybe this seems “healthy” on its face, until you consider the costs, the legal liability incurred in getting inaccurate information and posting it, the competitive disadvantage foisted on businesses with 20+ outlets vs. those with 19 or fewer, and the broader point of health care reform being used as means of creating new and expansive regulatory activity and interference in our lives.

(Incidentally, should you happen to own 20 restaurants, I advise shuttering the least productive one or ones and putting the staff on the unemployment rolls immediately. If you were thinking of investing in opening another restaurant and creating jobs, don’t.)

The Senate bill includes a tax on elective cosmetic surgery procedures. Does it on elective cosmetic dentistry procedures? Or on massage therapy chosen for general “feel good” stress relief vs. injury rehabilitation? Of course, it’s intended to only “tax the rich,” as are most of the new taxes created by the Senate bill.

But women might note how much revealed in past week is aimed at their gender: a tax on cosmetic surgery; the panel recommendation that that life-saving diagnostic tests could best be postponed by a decade and then done less frequently. Democrats appeared hither and thon blathering about too much testing causing unnecessary anxiety and unnecessary, costly surgeries. It reminded me of the head of Health and Human Services’ fairly recent opining about seniors getting scooter-chairs at Medicare’s expense, when they could just walk.

These are just two examples, one targeting restaurants, bakeries, cookie stores, popcorn stores, convenience stores, coffee shops, movie theater snack counters, etc.; the other targeting cosmetic surgeons and the hoity-toity, rich women who waste money on wrinkle removal, when that cash could go to feed starving urchins or fight global warming. These are not the only two, in those 2,000 pages or so in each bill – 4,000 total; and climbing. Countless special interests are favored. Countless specific businesses, products and services and consumer choices are singled out for discriminatory, punitive taxation or costly, burdensome regulation.

Never mind that the government demonstrates daily its incompetence at administering the regulations already in place, or the responsibilities it already has – evidenced by the hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud pervading the present government health care program, Medicare. Forget about the rats and filthy conditions found in the veterans’ hospital right there in Washington, D.C., under their noses, which most have already forgotten. It was a big news story, briefly. Ignore the fact that Bernie Madoff pulled off his scam in a heavily regulated industry. Don’t give a thought to the government’s inability to control the U.S. border … Need I go on?

Regrettably, mainstream media has not made dissecting these bills its mission, to itemize each and every individual target, tax, created power.  

Here then, in general, is what is hidden in the House and Senate’s versions of health care reform:

1. An impossibly complex collection of new rules, regulations, and entirely new bureaucratic boards and committees empowered to make up more rules and regulations after the fact – creating a crushing avalanche of unfunded mandates to state governments and untold new costs to hospitals and doctors’ offices, and other affected employers, thus killing jobs. My admittedly unscientific, common sense, K-Mart calculator deduced estimate of the jobs slaughter is at least 5 percent to 15 percent of all in the private health care sector.

2.  Myriad attempts to suppress the consumption of health care, now that the government and not the private sector will be paying for it. President Obama himself has accused doctors of unneeded operations, of taking out Tommy’s tonsils when a cough drop might do, and said that Americans get too much health care, that more is not necessarily best. Translation: you’re going to get less. Starting with seniors and women.

3. More direct and concealed new taxes than you could read off a teleprompter in a month. For example, there will be the equivalent of a value-added tax (VAT) on medical devices, with a bureaucrat at liberty to decide what might be a medical device.

They have made this clear: they are determined to get a bill passed (and their media friends are determined to help them). Any bill. No matter how poorly constructed, how incomprehensible, how expensive, how destructive, how laden with unknowns. They so desperately want a win, they’ll sacrifice anything for it. Integrity. Sanity. The economy. Your life.

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at www.NoBSBooks.com, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at www.DanKennedy.com.

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