In­sur­ance re­form will cost more, not less

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

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.

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