Insurance reform will cost more, not less
President Obama showed us just how serious he is about changing the divisive “tone” in Washington when he lashed out at the health insurance industry in his weekly radio address on Oct. 16.
The president said the industry had come up with “bogus” studies that claimed his health care plan would drive up health care costs and jack up insurance premiums by thousands of dollars.
He charged that the private health insurance industry was responsible for the rising costs of medical care and was at the center of just about everything that was wrong with the health care system, while it was reaping huge profits by denying coverage to needy Americans.
Mr. Obama was in a full political campaign mode, fighting what he sees as big, greedy, hardhearted, inept, inefficient corporate interests who had to be chained down by a benevolent government that would rewrite the rules for their industry, no matter what the costs.
But Mr. Obama’s politically partisan tone told us much more about the White House’s insecurity and defensiveness in the health care battle than it did about his adversaries.
“Many of the deals that the White House has been cutting all year with health industry leaders are starting to show the cracks and strains of political pressures in Congress,“ veteran health care analyst Grace-Marie Turner reported Oct. 19 in her weekly Web site report on the health care war raging on Capitol Hill.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska described the battle lines best of all when he told Politico, “We just finished the first quarter. There are three quarters to play. The bench is worn out. The quarterback keeps getting sacked. And the crowd has about had it, too.”
When Mr. Obama was campaigning in 2008, he said his health care plan would save the typical family of four about $2,500 a year. But at least two recent studies now say that instead of savings, Americans will see their premiums rise significantly because of the higher insurance costs resulting from Mr. Obama’s rigid mandates.
A study by the nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield said his plan would push family health insurance costs up by $3,300.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade association, asked PricewaterhouseCoopers auditors to undertake a similar study that found Mr. Obama’s plan would result in insurance premiums that were $4,000 a year higher.
Mr. Obama said these studies were all “smoke and mirrors.” But his blunt political attack can be applied to his own plan, now being worked out in the Senate where even Democrats do not believe the purported, long-term cost-savings numbers.
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate Finance Committee bill was deficit-neutral, and in fact would save money. But Democrats were able to lower the costs to under $900 billion only by moving $245 billion in increased Medicare payments to a separate bill and shifting the cost to the mushrooming debt.
The bill appears balanced “only by ignoring the cost of a Medicare doctor’s payment fix, pushing expensive Medicaid costs off to the states, and relying on unprecedented, sustained provider cuts in Medicare,” economist Douglas Holtz-Eaken said in a memo to House Repub- licans two weeks ago.
“The Senate bill creates an expensive new entitlement that grows at 8 percent as far as the eye can see — faster than the economy or taxes. The House bill is worse — including massive tax hikes, job-killing mandates and premium increases with a more than $1 trillion price tag,” he adds.
There are a lot of polls being produced that leave out unpopular facts to skew their responses in favor of key parts of the bills moving through Congress.
The Washington Post’s poll last week said that 56 percent of Americans supported provisions in the bill “that requires all Americans to have health insurance.” The question doesn’t mention the fines you would have to pay if you didn’t do what the government demanded.
But when International Communications Research, a non- partisan research firm in Pennsylvania, asked people for the Galen Institute think tank if they would support or oppose “a new law saying that everyone either would have to obtain private or public health insurance approved by the government or pay a tax of $750 or more every year,” they oppose the idea by a lopsided 71 percent to 21 percent.
If you want to know how Obamacare’s compulsory plan would work, it is now on full view in Massachusetts, where everyone is required to have insurance.
There are longer waiting periods to see doctors and costs have risen. A Rasmussen poll in June found that three times more voters, 29 percent to 10 percent, say it has reduced the quality of medical care, and nearly 30 percent to 21 percent say it has made insurance less affordable.
New Jersey enacted legislation in the early 1990s mandating insurers to enroll all applicants regardless of their health and at the same price. Its insurance premiums are among the highest in the country.
Make no mistake, Obamacare is going to cost all of us — the economy, taxpayers, the health care industry, businesses, the insured and uninsured — a lot of money, more than its supporters are willing to admit, at least in public.
Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent of The Washington Times.