Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

Fork Over Large Chunks of Cash


A few weeks ago, Yuval had a memorable post in which he argued that one by one, the arguments for the Democratic health bill — cost, coverage, efficiency — are falling away.  I saw this clearly yesterday when I debated Kristen Powers on Fox News.  She acknowledged my arguments that the health-care bill would increase costs and taxes, but just said a number of times that we have a “moral imperative” to pass a health bill.  We may have a moral imperative to increase access to health insurance, but there is no moral imperative to pass a bad bill.

Today’s New York Times shows us one more argument in favor of the Democratic health effort that is now defunct.  This is the argument that the two paths for purchasing insurance under Tuesday’s grand compromise — OPM for non federal employees and Medicare those 55-64 — would help participants purchase insurance more affordably.  According to the Times’s David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear, “Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash.” 

The article goes on to explain just how much various groups would have to pay.  A family earning $54,000 — a little more than the median household income — that wanted to buy the nationwide Blue Cross Blue Shield policy through the FEHBP-like mechanism, would have monthly premiums over $825.  And buying into Medicare would cost $7,600 for an individual or $15,200 for a couple.  In fact, according to former Medicare trustee Marilyn Moon, private health-plan premiums could be cheaper than Medicare’s.

When many of the recipients of these “goodies” realize what the bill is giving them, they will see that they would be better off without such largesse.  In fact, as Keith Hennessey points out, middle-class losers will outnumber the winners under the Senate bill by about 4 to 1.  A 4:1 loser to winner ratio is both terrible politics and terrible policy.  Recent polls show that a majority of Americans are realizing this and are opposed to the legislation.  Unfortunately, the reigning majorities in the U.S. Congress have not yet come to grips with this reality.


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