Some are suggesting that Democrats blunt Republicans’ efforts to repeal health care reform by accelerating the actual implementation of the benefits in the reform package. These moves respond to a side effect of Democrats’ accounting gimmicks designed to lowball the costs of health care reform. Specifically, Democratic Congressional leaders concocted a misleading 10-year cost estimate by enacting many revenue-gathering provisions immediately, but postponing implementation of costly mandates until 6 years down the road. By ordering the Congressional Budget Office to count 10 years of revenue and only 4 years of costs, they were able to get the CBO to reluctantly support their claims that health care reform would actually reduce the deficit. It was a blatant falsehood, but politically necessary in order to give fiscally conservative Democrats political cover.
However, accelerating the “benefits” of the reform package would have the side-effect of exposing the false promises and gimmicks built into the package as well. For example, the acceleration of provisions guaranteeing broader coverage will have the effect of accelerating the increases in health care premiums that Democrats claimed would never happen at all (but which financial analysts at major corporations were required by law to report, much to the distress of Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman). Unless we are prepared to believe the obvious fantasy that insurance companies will greatly increase their costs while doing nothing to increase their revenue streams, speeding up implementation of mandates that do that will have the effect of ripping the political cover off the pro-reform rhetorical scam even sooner.
That’s not to say the provisions should not be accelerated — they should, but in the name of honesty rather than partisan gamesmanship. Truth should be forced out sooner, rather than being delayed in the interests of protecting the guilty from political accountability. For the same reason, I would say that those who want to accelerate benefits to send a message to Republicans should also reject efforts by partisans such as Rep. Waxman to coerce companies into concealing the costs of the health care reform mandates. They should also call for acceleration of the “Cadillac tax” on the high-cost health plans negotiated by many unions as a replacement for foregone pay increases. While we’re trumpeting all the supposed goodies the Democrats are handing out, let’s stop hiding those massive tax increases on millions of middle-class workers. And let’s do it all in time to actually make it an issue in elections in 2010 and 2012. Since we weren’t allowed to even read (let alone actually debate) the details of the reform proposal before it was passed, let’s take the opportunity now.
When President Obama signed his health-care reform last month, he declared it will “lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government.” So why, barely a month later, are Democrats scrambling to pass a new bill that would impose price controls on insurance?
In now-they-tell-us hearings on Tuesday, the Senate health committee debated a bill that would give states the power to reject premium increases that state regulators determine are “unreasonable.” The White House proposed this just before the final Obama- Care scramble, but it couldn’t be included because it violated the procedural rules that Democrats abused to pass the bill.
National Democrats now want the power to do the same across the country, because they know how unrealistic their cost-control claims really are. Democrats are petrified they’ll get the blame they deserve when insurance costs inevitably spike. So the purpose of this latest Senate bill is to have a pre-emptive political response on hand.
ObamaCare includes several new cost-driving mandates that take effect immediately, including expanding family coverage for children as old as 26 and banning consumer co-payments for preventive care. Democrats are bragging about these “benefits,” but they aren’t free and their cost will be built into premiums. And those are merely teasers for the many Washington-created dysfunctions that will soon distort insurance markets.
Wow. The truth will out. And better sooner than later.
The author welcomes serious discussion of health care reform by email. Mere regurgitation of partisan talking points or abuse will be printed out, fed to the cat, and inevitably regurgitated.