Critical Condition

Mutiny in Scrutiny?

It was always clear that the real health-care battle would be in the Senate.  But what would have been shocking eight months ago is to hear that it would take until November for the Democrats to pass a bill even in the House.  It would have been even more shocking to have heard that, even after a full-court-press by the White House, the bill would pass by only five votes — meaning that if just three of the 435 members had changed their minds, it would have changed the bill’s fate.  And it would have been shocking to have heard that 39 Democrats would jump ship.

The House bill has passed — barely and belatedly — and it is now dead.  Nothing like it will ever pass the Senate.  The question now is whether anything will, now that the voters have spoken in New Jersey and Virginia — and now that the exceedingly narrow margin in the House will likely invite even greater scrutiny of that which is being proposed.

Greater scrutiny will not help the Democrats’ efforts.  In truth, their hopes for passage largely hinge on successfully hiding two plain facts from the voters:  One, the House Republicans and the Congressional Budget Office have now shown that a bill costing $61 billion can lower Americans’ insurance premiums, while bills costing $1.7 trillion cannot (and instead would raise them substantially).  Two, the Democrats’ plans would be paid for only if they follow through on plans to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars out of already-barely-solvent Medicare, and to do so just in time for the baby boomers’ retirement.   

Given the magnitude of the challenge of continuing to hide these plain facts from an increasingly attentive citizenry, the Democratic health-care train has a very bumpy ride ahead — as it rolls into the chamber that the American Founders thought from the beginning would ultimately decide our fate: the Senate.

 — Jeffrey H. Anderson is a senior fellow in health-care studies at the Pacific Research Institute and was the senior speechwriter for Secretary Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during Pres. George W. Bush’s second term.

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