Critical Condition

Winners & Losers from the ‘Manager’s Amendment’

Sen. Harry Reid’s “manager’s amendment,” the last substantive change Senate Democrats will allow to be considered before the Senate’s final votes, reflects the accommodations Senate Democrats have made to get to 60 votes. CBO provides its view of who got something from the manager’s amendment: more small businesses will qualify for tax credits for health insurance, penalties (for those with incomes high enough to be subject to penalties) for not having health insurance will be higher, and there are some provisions that are intended to make life tougher for insurance companies, and individuals with incomes over $200,000 will see their Medicare payroll tax increase go from 0.5 percent pre-manager’s amendment to 0.9 percent with the manager’s amendment. Altogether, CBO sees $2 billion in additional savings. Trimming the fiscal sails is clearly not what the manager’s amendment is about.

The “public option” would maintain a vestigial form. Multi-state plans would be available through state health-insurance exchanges. The federal Office of Personnel Management, which has no experience as a health-insurance regulator, would be in charge of overseeing these plans. Reading the CBO letter, these multi-state plans are a program without a point, and CBO sees no reason insurers would want to organize them or people would want to enroll in them.

The best example of interest-group success appears to be elimination of the 5 percent excise tax on cosmetic surgery, replaced with a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services. 

Not on CBO’s list is the language about coverage of abortion services. As Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) makes clear, the language that satisfied Sen. Ben Nelson will lead NRLC to score a vote for the manager’s amendment as a vote for federal subsidies for abortion on demand.

– Hanns Kuttner is a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute.

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