I’m from the government, and I can’t help you

Andy Matthews

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I'm from the government, and I can't help you

President Ronald Reagan would have turned 102 years old this week. The Great Communicator was full of wonderful stories and anecdotes. One of my favorites was his quip that “I’ve always felt that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

I was reminded of that statement this week as I visited with lawmakers and walked the halls of the Legislative Building in Carson City. There are a lot of energetic and intelligent politicians in that building, but how many of them understand what Reagan put so simply? Once government goes beyond performing its core functions in the most efficient way possible, it doesn’t solve problems — it makes them worse.

In many cases, the challenge isn’t in determining whether government should try to solve a problem or not, but in getting politicians to recognize that government simply can’t solve it.

Let me illustrate this with a recent story I read about Obamacare. Leaving aside how Obamacare infringes on religious liberty and the fact that 7 million people will soon be involuntarily losing their job-based insurance coverage because of it, let’s examine its impact on emergency room visits.

Advocates of Obamacare insisted the country would save money by mandating that people buy insurance, because having insurance would cut down on emergency room visits. Instead, as detailed by Jennifer Robison in last Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, Obamacare is actually going to increase emergency room visits.

For a glimpse of how bad things could get in Nevada, consider Massachusetts.

In the two years after that state's individual insurance mandate took effect in 2006, emergency room visits jumped 9 percent, according to the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. ER visits kept increasing through 2012, when they finally began dropping for reasons that are not clear to industry observers.

ER visits rose because when people have coverage, they are more likely to go to the doctor. They may have a chronic illness they can finally afford to treat, or they might schedule a checkup because they have insurance and want to use it. As doctors' appointment books fill up, more people go where they cannot be turned away — an emergency room.

Nevada could see an even more dramatic shift into ERs, said Dr. Mitchell Forman, dean and professor of medicine at Touro. …

"Whenever people have difficulty getting an appointment or accessing the system, the emergency department becomes the default place most people go," [Nevada State Medical Association Executive Director Larry] Matheis said. "Everybody is expecting it. Hospitals are bracing for it."

There are plenty of other examples of government’s inability to solve problems, including Nevada’s Hardest Hit Fund, which can’t even give away taxpayer dollars in a timely manner, and Nevada’s repeated and failed attempts to improve student achievement by increasing education spending. But I’d rather leave you with more quotes from the greatest president of the 20th Century than detail those failed programs.

These are pearls of wisdom our elected officials should remember before they offer to “help.”

“Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”

“Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

“The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.”

“When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”

Take care,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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