Gregg: None of the Goals of Health-Care Reform Are Met by the Harkin or Baucus Bills
From Senator Gregg’s floor speech on health-care reform:
The purpose of health care reform should be to make health care insurance affordable for everyone, while in the out-years reduce the rate of growth of health care costs, and allow people who have an insurance policy today to keep their policy. Those were the goals which we set up here when we stepped into this arena of trying to change health care delivery systems in this country. Unfortunately, neither the now Senator Harkin-led bill, originally authored by Senator Dodd and Senator Kennedy, nor the Baucus bill accomplish any of those three goals. Let’s take, for example, the goal that everybody should be able to have access to affordable health care. The Harkin bill, as scored by CBO, said that of the 47 million people who don’t have health care today, approximately 34 million would still not have health care after this bill is fully phased-in. The Baucus bill, which came out of the Finance Committee, varies. We haven’t seen a final score on it, but it looks like it’s going to be somewhere in the vicinity of about half of the people who don’t have health care today will still not have health care after you finish phasing in that bill.
As to the issue of controlling out-year costs, neither the Harkin bill nor the Baucus bill control out-year costs. In fact, the costs go up rather dramatically in the area of health care. And as to the issue of letting people keep their insurance if they like it — no, that doesn’t happen either. In fact, large numbers by the millions — according to CBO — would migrate off of their private system into a plan directly subsidized by the federal government to some extent because basically their employer would drop their plan. Under the Baucus plan, when you set the penalties for an employer at a level that basically says it is fiscally prudent for the employer to pay the penalty rather than to insure people, many employers are unfortunately going to give up the insurance they provide and push people into the subsidized program which is called the exchange. Thus, a lot of people will lose the insurance that they have today which they like. So none of these goals are met by these bills. . . .
So in the end, people’s premiums are going to go up. Private insurance premiums are going to go up. Well, you might say, you know, why would somebody do that? Why would somebody drive up the premiums on people? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because the goal here is to basically eliminate private insurance. The goal here is to create a structure where essentially people who get private health care through private insurance will be on a public plan when this is all over. And the government will essentially absorb all insurance. This is not a good idea. Why isn’t it a good idea? Because the government, basically in order to control costs, can only do two things. It can limit access or control prices. Either way, it significantly undermines the quality of health care. And there are about 180 million people in this country or more who already have health care and are fairly comfortable with the health care they’re getting under the private system. But they’re going to be at deep risk.