2009-12-26 / Editorials & Letters

It looks like coal for Christmas

It looks like the majority of Americans who now oppose the federal takeover of our health care will find coal in our stockings Christmas morning.

After literally billions in bribes to some reluctant or maybe just crafty Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – recently heard comparing takeover opponents to those supporting slavery and opposing women’s rights – got his 60 votes early Monday morning to stop debate and set up a final vote late Christmas Eve. The bribes included some $300 million of federal subsidies for Medicaid in Louisiana (for Senator Mary Landrieu), $300 million to increase Medicare payments to doctors in California, and probably a billion or more to subsidize the cost in Massachusetts, Nebraska (for Senator Ben Nelson) and Vermont of the required Medicaid eligibility expansion in the bill.

There’s likely billions more in bribes and special interest giveaways since Reid presented a last minute 383-page manager’s amendment on Saturday that had been crafted privately in discussions with some Democrats. It’s now a 2,733-page monstrosity. No one really knows what’s in this latest version and, frighteningly, none of the supporters really seem to care. It’s now all about achieving a long-standing liberal goal for national health insurance and letting President Obama make history.

Just last week Ohioans saw an enacted income tax cut delayed for at least two years to help balance Ohio’s precarious budget. Medicaid expenditures represent about 23 percent of Ohio’s budget, the second largest single expense after education. Too bad we don’t live in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska or Vermont where we all will be subsidizing their Medicaid expenses. Here in Ohio, we’ll be paying even more for Medicaid under this bill plus part of the costs for the bribes to create a legacy for Obama.

It gets worse. Key elements of the ‘house of cards’ financing for our ‘free’ healthcare are the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance plans and the annual ‘fee’ on insurance companies. In Reid’s last minute dealmaking, it turns out that some interests are more special than others. For example, longshoreman are paid princely sums and have high-cost insurance plans. Somehow they have escaped the new excise tax along with some other well-connected union workers such as miners, electrical linemen and forestry workers. The ‘fee’ on insurance companies was supposed to be divided up by market share. Now some non-profit insurance companies like Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliates in some key Democratic states won’t have to pay the fee. Since this ‘fee’ would simply be passed onto policyholders, this means some favored customers will be spared the extra expense.

Reid is even trying to keep future Senators and Representatives from changing parts of the bill. A provision creating the new Independent Medicare Advisory Board can not be repealed. It is questionable whether this limitation is even constitutional. What’s this new Board supposed to do? Its charter in the bill is to “reduce the per-capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.” That sure sounds like rationing and the ‘no repeal’ provision provides cover for our politicians when “all hell breaks loose” once we’ve seen ObamaCare rationing up close and personal.

In the months we’ve been writing about this atrocity, there’s been one constant. As the public learns more of the details, support for the misnamed “reform” declines. The arrogance in jamming an increasingly unpopular bill down our throats with no bipartisan support is mind boggling. Every major piece of legislation in our history including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, civil rights, welfare reform and war resolutions for Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have had significant bipartisan support. But this time not a single Republican amendment or suggestion has been approved or incorporated.

So what can we expect. Health insurance will be more costly as the effects of guaranteed issue and community rating are incorporated. There will be no competition across state lines and instead of being able to buy plans suited to our needs like just catastrophic care for young adults, we’ll be forced to buy the loaded federally mandated plans.

Rationing will be right around the corner as ‘the house of cards’ financing collapses. Medical innovation will fall drastically as the market for new drugs, procedures and equipment falls apart. They will be considered too costly. There is even a new tax on medical devices like stents and artificial joints to speed the industry’s decline.

Perhaps most important, our health care will now become a political issue to be decided by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. Our doctors will become cooks, simply performing the recipes written by politicians and bureaucrats. If you fall victim to a politically favored disease like breast cancer, you’ll at least have a chance to get the treatment you need. Politicians quickly overturned the recent limitation on mammograms (good decision, bad reason). But don’t come down with something not politically favored like complications from obesity. You’ll likely be on your own.

It is difficult to conceive how 60 senators are willing to support this disaster. Maybe there is method to Reid’s madness. He knows the bill is a mess and will likely collapse. After all you can’t favor one state over another, some insurance policies and jobs over others and get away with it for years. Can you? Then his fellow Democrats can fix their mess with what they have been seeking for years – national health insurance period.

Don’t let them get away with it.

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