Healthcare Reform Up in Smoke
Editorial -- Barry MacDonald
At times during the Blair House healthcare summit, a gathering designed to embarrass attending Republicans, the President looked like a victim of the exploding cigar gag -- minus the black powder.
All the President's enchanting promises made repeatedly for over a year were exposed as empty rhetoric. For all his efforts the President has failed to win public support, and for good reason.
Recently the President has talked about his "proposal" -- it is a fiction (there is no such legislative language he himself has written) that allows him to promise benefits that can never be delivered. The President said, "My proposal would bring down the cost of healthcare for millions -- families, businesses, and the federal government." He said it is "fully paid for" and "brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next two decades."
At this late date, the House and Senate have each passed different versions of healthcare reform. House and Senate Democrats are wrestling with each other to see who can form to their liking the final healthcare bill. The pressure is on for House Democrats to pass the Senate version, which is unpopular among House Democrats. Democrat leadership in the Senate is promising to fix those aspects of the Senate bill that House Democrats dislike, but the method proposed, "reconciliation," is controversial in the extreme -- the Democrats themselves called reconciliation the "nuclear option" when Senate Republicans considered its use years ago.
For a year Democrats have been fighting amongst themselves to pass healthcare reform. In the House and Senate, Democrats have had overwhelming majorities, but they haven't got the job done. Now they are calling Republicans "obstructionists," even though the Republicans haven't had the votes to stop whatever plan the House and Senate could agree on. The Democrats are using the Republicans as scapegoats to hide the fact that they are squandering their opportunity to change forever the form of American healthcare.
House Democrats distrust Senate Democrats, suspecting that once House Democrats pass the Senate version through the House, Senate Democrats will take no further action, thus the final form of healthcare reform becomes the Senate version.
So, the House Democrats and Senate Democrats assembled at the Blair House summit with the President on February 25. The selected Republicans in attendance were supposed to be props to blame for the failure to yet pass healthcare reform. The Democrats expected the President to pretend that he was listening to their ideas (because that's what the Democrats believe the American people want to see), and thereafter to shame the Republicans for not accepting the final Democrat bill.
The Democrats needed the President to use his eloquence and supposed "charm" at this late date, when the passage of healthcare reform hangs between success and failure, to convince the American people that reform was worthy of support.
But the Democrats met their match in Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan. To be fair, all the present Republicans did a good job, but Paul Ryan was outstanding.
Paul Ryan pointed out that, yes, indeed, the rising costs of healthcare is "driving us off a fiscal cliff," that Medicare has a $38 trillion unfunded liability, amounting to empty promises to future generations. He said Medicaid is
. . . growing at 21 percent each year, and is suffocating states' budgets. It's adding trillions in obligations that we have no means to pay for.
He told the president that he respects the Congressional Budget Office professionals whose task it is to estimate the costs of proposed legislation, but that the score of the Senate version of reform can't be done accurately because of the "gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors" involved. To say, as the Democrats do, that the bill reduces the deficit $131 billion over the next 10 years is false, because the bill has:
. . .10 years of tax increases, about half a trillion dollars, with 10 years of Medicare cuts, about half a trillion dollars, to pay for six years of spending. . . . Now, what's the true 10-year cost of this bill in 10 years? That's $2.3 trillion.
Paul Ryan said that the Senate bill takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and:
. . . counts them as offsets. But that's really reserved for Social Security. So either we're double-counting them or we don't intend on paying those Social Security benefits.
Paul Ryan said:
Now, when you take a look at the Medicare cuts, what this bill essentially does [is treat] Medicare like a piggy bank. It raids a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare, not to shore up Medicare solvency, but to spend on this new government program.
. . . According to the chief actuary of Medicare . . . as much as 20 percent of Medicare's providers will either go out of business or will have to stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of seniors . . . who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage that they now enjoy. . . . You can't say that you're using this money to either extend Medicare solvency and also offset the cost of this new program. That's double counting.
And so when you take a look at all of this; when you strip out the double-counting and what I would call these gimmicks, the full 10-year cost of the bill has a $460 billion deficit. The second 10-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit.
. . . Probably the most cynical gimmick in this bill is something that we all probably agree on. We don't think we should cut doctors [annual federal reimbursement] 21 percent next year. We've stopped those cuts from occurring every year for the last seven years.
We all call this, here in Washington, the doc fix. Well, the doc fix, according to your numbers, costs $371 billion. It was in the first iteration of all of these bills, but because it was a big price tag and it made the score look bad, made it look like a deficit . . . that provision was taken out, and it's been going on in stand-alone legislation. But ignoring these costs does not remove them from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending does not reduce spending. And so when you take a look at all of this, it just doesn't add up.
. . . I'll finish with the cost curve. Are we bending the cost curve down or are we bending the cost curve up? . . . Well if you look at your own chief actuary at Medicare, we're bending it up. He's claiming that we're going up $222 billion, adding more to the unsustainable fiscal situation we have.
This is when the President, and all the assembled Democrats too, looked as if their gag-cigars exploded.
All the nation's assembled media were rolling film and recording audio, but Paul Ryan's words were not widely broadcast, as it would hinder progress of finally passing healthcare reform by revealing the double-dealing features of the Senate bill. The media had been counting on embarrassed Republicans but had instead found embarrassed Democrats.
After a year of effort this President has failed to gain the public's support for healthcare reform, and through the Democrats might just be able to ram it though to passage, it will carry an indelible stain.
According to recent polling done by Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen, 57 percent of voters believe that passage would hurt the economy, while only 25 percent believe it would help; 81 percent of voters say it's likely the plan will cost more than projected, only 10 percent say the official numbers are accurate; 76 percent believe their own coverage is good or excellent, and half of these people believe that if proposed legislation is passed they will be forced to change insurance, much to their displeasure.
At this point, if the Democrats brazen through to passage this perversion of "reform" they will bear the entire burden of blame when the plan's many terrible aspects become manifest for all to see. *
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." --Thomas Jefferson
Some of the quotes following each article have been gathered by The Federalist Patriot at: http://FederalistPatriot.US/services.asp.
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