One aspect of Obamacare, the so-called Frontier Amendment, has been causing quite a bit of controversy in North Dakota. Senator Kent Conrad has said he was “infuriated” when he learned the amendment, which increases Medicare reimbursements for rural states like North Dakota, was on the chopping block.
The Frontier Amendment did not expand federal health care. It provided no new service. What it did was make the payment system fair for hospitals in rural states. It did add to the overall cost of Medicare, and that has become a problem for the administration. Rather than suck it up and deal with adjusting benefits or paying more, the administration and some urban members of Congress on both sides of the aisle want to kill the amendment, turn their backs on rural America and re-establish an unfair system.
The problem with these demands for “fairness” in government price fixing is that as long as the government is setting the prices, there is no fairness.
Is it fair that health care providers can’t negotiate their prices? Is it fair that health care consumers in the Medicare program can’t shop around for cheaper services? Is it fair that federal taxpayers in other states are getting stuck for the tab for higher reimbursements in North Dakota?
It’s not just the Frontier Amendment that’s unfair. Medicare is unfair. Americans don’t get a choice. We’re forced to pay into the program, and we’re forced to enroll in it when we’re elderly. And in the program, the government simply dictates what prices it will pay for care in a vain attempt to control costs.
They have to try and control costs because Medicare is going broke. And as the program gets even more broke, the efforts by the government to control prices and ration access to care will only get worse.
Griping about the Frontier Amendment is like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.