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Obama Should Say ‘No’ to Dems’ Health Care Reform Plan
08.14.09

Obama Should Say ‘No’ to Dems’ Health Care Reform Plan 

by Penny Wise

Discussions on health care reform in the U.S. have become emotionally—and sometimes physically—charged. The public senses they have a lot at stake in the outcome of this intensely debated issue, and rightfully so. What will health care reform bring, and at what cost? The answers may make even the healthiest members of the public feel ill.
 
President Obama, Health-Care-Reformer-in-Chief, was in Portsmouth, NH, recently to sell his version of what he called “health insurance reform.” The reform the president was talking about, however, differs significantly from the details contained in the 1,633 pages of the House and Senate health care reform bills.
 
The president acknowledged in his speech in the Granite State that there are “different ideas” contained in the reform packages drafted by House and Senate Democrats and that “we are still exploring those ideas.” Let’s hope the president rejects those “different ideas” and also rethinks his own. His plans for health care reform are obscenely expensive, and those of the House and Senate are even more so.
 
The president conceded in Portsmouth that “there are legitimate concerns about the cost of the program” he is proposing and “paying for it is not simple.” He himself said his reform plan has “been estimated to cost somewhere between, let's say, $800 billion and a trillion dollars over 10 years.” As if that weren’t enough, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the House reform plan will be $1.042 trillion in the first 10 years, an additional $42 billion to $242 billion more than the president’s plan.
 
This potential $242 billion difference in the cost of the health care reform plans proposed by the president and the Democrats in Congress is significant, because the president also said in Portsmouth, “I won't sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. Okay? So this will have to be paid for.”
 
And who will have to pay for this? In the president’s words: “people like myself who make more than $250,000 a year,” who will pay more in taxes after new limits are placed on their itemized deductions, placing them at the same deduction level as that of middle-income taxpayers.
 
But what happens if this source of new tax money isn’t enough to cover the president’s or the Democrats’ expensive health care reform plan? Middle class taxpayers will undoubtedly be next in line to pay increased taxes to fund the Democrats’ plan.
 
The president also said during his Portsmouth visit that “if your employer provides you health care or you buy your own health care and you're happy with it, you won't have to change.” While you may not have to make changes initially, change is certainly on the horizon. Both House and Senate bills require all health insurance plans to conform to new federal standards within five years. So while subscribers may not have to change their plan in the near future, their current health insurance plan may have to change to conform to federal standards or may no longer exist.
 
High deductible HSA plans, for example, which have lowered costs and improved outcomes, may be required to decrease deductibles (and therefore raise premiums) to meet new government regulations in the bills. This will increase the cost of these plans, which are often favored by small businesses and self-insured individuals, while offering few, if any, additional benefits.
 
The House and Senate bills also require health insurance companies to employ a “community rating” system in determining rates. This drove health insurers from New Hampshire when it was required in 1994, following legislation proposed by then Democratic state senator Jeanne Shaheen, now one of the state’s U.S. senators. This legislation reduced the number of insurers in the state from 26 to five in an eight-year span and raised health insurance costs for the healthiest citizens. With a federal government-backed public health insurance option now proposed, private health insurance plans—and choice—will most likely disappear again.
 
Anticipating another concern of the public, the president said in Portsmouth that “this is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don't believe anyone should be in charge of your health insurance decisions but you and your doctor.”  He may not believe in government involvement in these decisions, but members of Congress certainly do.
 
The current House and Senate bills put the government in charge of health insurance decisions by setting the requirements for the health insurance policies available in each state. Once the five-year phase-in is over, all health insurance policies must conform to strict government mandates. The government, not insurance companies, will determine the benefits offered to consumers.
 
So where, exactly, is President Obama’s health insurance plan if it cannot be found in the House or Senate Democrats’ bills? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. The Democrats in the House and Senate are going to reform health care their way. Government-run health care, along with its ever-increasing federal budget deficits, will be a reality within five years unless President Obama listens to the public and has the intestinal fortitude to say no to his own party.
 
Now that would be a change we could believe in.

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