Politics & Policy

A $2.5 Trillion Self-Contradiction

Obamacare is a classic case of bait and switch.

The Senate’s Obamacare bill is a 2,076-page, $2.5 trillion self-contradiction. It largely would accomplish the exact opposite of what President Obama himself has promised and preached.

‐“The plan I’m announcing tonight,” Obama told a joint session of Congress last September 9, “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.”

Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, M.D., could not disagree more: “You talk to every health care economist out there and they will tell you that whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government — those elements are not in this bill.” Speaking on MSNBC, Vermont’s former governor added: “There is no cost control of any substance in this bill.”

In fact, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) bill, “average premiums per policy in the non-group market in 2016 would be roughly $5,800 for single policies and $15,200 for family policies under the proposal, compared with roughly $5,500 for single policies and $13,100 for family policies under current law.”

Among companies, the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Health Care believes that the status quo would trump Reid’s bill. “Unfortunately, with its new taxes, mandates, growth in government programs, and overall price tag, [Reid’s measure] costs too much and delivers too little.”

As for government costs, the Health and Human Services Department’s chief actuary analyzed Reid’s legislation. Compared to doing nothing, Richard Foster estimated that “total national health expenditures under this bill would increase by an estimated total of $234 billion (0.7 percent)” between 2010 and 2019. U.S. health spending would grow from 16 percent of GDP to 20.9 percent. Bye bye, cost containment.

‐In his joint-session speech, President Obama said: “If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices.” Despite this new entitlement’s breathtaking outlays and hyperactivity, come 2019, it still would leave 24 million Americans uninsured. Are they supposed to keep using emergency rooms as primary-care facilities? Democrats have no apparent plan to cover this group, roughly as populous as Texas.

‐“I can make a firm pledge,” candidate Obama vowed last year. “No family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase. . . . You will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.”

Pat Roberts (R., Kans.) said on the Senate floor December 9 that this bill “taxes you if you have health insurance. It taxes you if you do not have health insurance.” Citing Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, Roberts explained that “73 million individuals and families or 43 percent of all tax returns under $200,000 will, on average, see their taxes increase under this bill.”

‐“These aren’t small changes. These are big changes,” Obama said Tuesday. “They’re going to save lives. . . . That’s why this reform has to pass on our watch.”

As a matter of life and death, as Obama describes it, one would expect health-care reform to be signed, whereupon its lifesaving features would commence almost immediately.

Hardly.

While taxes on health insurers, drug companies, and medical-device manufacturers would start in 2010, Americans would not enjoy health reform’s reputed benefits until 2014. Thus, Obamacare is like calling 911, except that the ambulance shows up four months late. The lives that Obamacare so urgently must save presumably will keep expiring until the middle of Obama’s second term . . . or his successor’s first.

‐Candidate Obama told Chester, Va., voters in August 2008 how he planned to develop health reform. “I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table,” Obama announced. “We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators, insurance companies, drug companies. . . . We’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN.”

In reality, this reform process has been as transparent as Windsor Castle. Last Tuesday, Obama huddled with the Senate Democratic caucus. Republicans were not welcome. C-SPAN’s cameras were barred from the room.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, Senator Reid secretly weaves a “manager’s amendment” that encompasses his deals to purchase the support of his fellow Democrats. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Reid’s deputy, said: “I am in the dark” about this, “and I am in the leadership.”

Far from momentous, Obamacare is utterly mundane. It is merely a classic case of bait and switch.

— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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