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Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

Obama and the Democrats vs. the Voters



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The Obama White House and Congressional Democrats are trying to treat the Massachusetts Senate election the same way they treated last summer’s town-hall meetings — by ignoring it.

But it’s very unlikely to work this time around.

Last August, it was already apparent that Obamacare was in deep trouble with a skeptical public. Strong opposition to a government-heavy reform of American health care was on full display in countless meetings held in every part of the country. And it was also clear that the more Americans learned about what was being planned by the Democrats, the stronger the opposition got.

But last September, the White House chose to ignore the clear message that voters were sending. Instead, the administration decided to move ahead as fast as possible to jam the legislation through Congress before public opposition became overwhelming. To get the bills through the House and Senate, Democratic leaders resorted to unseemly vote-buying that further infuriated the public.

Popular outrage was in full boil by the time Democrats huddled at the White House with their union patrons in early January to carve out a special deal for collectively-bargained health-insurance arrangements. The Democrats had no intention of seeking out any more public input at that point. They were focused on reaching a “historic” signing ceremony.

But the voters found another avenue to voice their strong opposition to what was going on, in the person of Scott Brown, who ran for the Senate on the explicit promise to stop Obamacare in its tracks. His stunning and historic victory finally seemed to break through the fog of Democratic self-delusion. After the Brown win, every sane Democrat in Washington finally woke up to what was happening around the country: It’s not some vague anger at gridlock and inaction that is motivating the electorate. Americans are dead set against the government takeover of health care that the president has been pushing, and politicians who continue to pursue that agenda do so at their extreme peril.

Ever since January 19, the health-care debate has been a state of limbo, waiting for the president to make his next move.

This past weekend, he did. Just like last September, it’s full steam ahead for Obamacare. The president is not going to change anything. The health-care “plan” released by the Obama White House on Monday picks up where the Democrats left off in early January, as if nothing has changed but the month on the calendar.

The latest Obama plan would still pile a massive new health-entitlement program on top of the unaffordable ones already on the books. The Congressional Budget Office says the cost of the coverage expansions in the Senate bill (upon which the president’s plan is based) will reach $200 billion annually by 2019 and increase 8 percent every year thereafter. The Obama plan would increase those costs with even more expensive promises. Over the next decade, the plan would cost at least $1.2 trillion. Over a full ten years of implementation, its cost would approach $2.5 trillion.

The president keeps saying Congress needs to pass his plan to “bend the cost-curve,” but there has never been cost-control in any of the plans Congress has been considering. The savings in Medicare come from arbitrary payment reductions that apply without regard to any metrics of quality, and the program’s chief actuary has warned repeatedly that they are unrealistic because of the damage they would cause to access to care. Moreover, the much-touted “Cadillac tax” now won’t apply until 2018 — well after President Obama is out of office — and even then it would be set so high as to be largely meaningless. This is the same tax the president and his people have pointed to all year as evidence of their seriousness on cost-control. The political cowardice is stunning. It’s now clear the Democrats have no intention of ever imposing this tax, but that won’t stop Obama from claiming “deficit reduction” from the revenue assumed from it in the second decade of implementation.

The White House and its allies have apparently made their choice. They are going to try to jam their bill through, despite overwhelming public opposition. This will have the entirely predictable result of triggering a backlash of epic proportions. Voters will be beyond irate at the arrogance of it all. Rank-and-file Democrats will therefore be faced with a stark choice. Follow their leaders off of this political cliff, or listen to their constituents and pursue sensible, bipartisan reforms. The president may have decided to ignore the message of Massachusetts, but, with the Obama magic long gone, many other Democrats almost certainly won’t.



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