The latest health-care bill, offered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is more of the same. Like every other Democratic bill before Congress, this “comprehensive reform” has two major features: First, it transforms insurance into a product that few rational people would buy. Second, it forces them to buy it.
Like the Baucus bill, Pelosi’s alternative imposes massive costs on states and individuals so that its sponsors can describe it as “cheap” for the federal government. Like the Baucus bill, it contains disguised tax increases on middle-class Americans: In the case of Pelosi’s bill, the chief subterfuge is to impose taxes on “the rich” with no adjustment for inflation: Over time more and more Americans will pay the higher taxes.
Pelosi’s bill is being called “less liberal” than some of its predecessors because the government-run insurance program it creates would not be allowed to force bargain-basement rates on doctors. To dwell on this question — unless you are a lobbyist for one of the affected interests — is to miss the forest fire for the trees. The details of the “public option” are not what make this bill a mistake; and it would remain a mistake even if it lacked a public option altogether.
All of the Democratic bills are likely to increase premiums. All of them are too expensive, too coercive, too likely to generate governmental interference with medical practice, and too disruptive. All of them subsidize abortion. All of them reject incremental reform in favor of liberal hubris. House Republicans should promote alternatives that are the opposite on every count.
None of this is to deny that the differences among the Democratic bills have any import at all. They suggest that there is less than meets the eye to Democratic claims that passage of what they style “reform” is inevitable. Democrats have not agreed on how to pay for reform, for example, which is no small matter. The Democrats’ approach to health care remains unpopular. What seems most inevitable is that sooner or later they will pay for it.