Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Response to the New York Times

The New York Times editorial regarding the Baucus plan and health care reform is an incredible piece of work. The Times lost any credibility it had a long time ago, but some people still read the rag and actually subscribe to its beliefs, so it's important to take this editorial apart and clarify things.

The first paragraph set the tone of the piece, closing with this sentence: "Only one Republican on the committee seems open to voting for the bill, and the entire Republican Congressional leadership seems determined — for ideological and partisan reasons — to torpedo the entire reform effort."

The same message concludes the editorial: "Republicans have yet to make any serious counterproposals...".

Both statements are inaccurate. Republicans are not against Obamacare for partisan reasons. Republicans are against Obamacare because the proposals have been lacking in important elements like tort reform, they've been expensive, and they all will impose heavy taxes on all Americans and lead to nationalized health care. The Republicans HAVE offered constructive alternatives such as tort reform and selling insurance across state lines, both of which would make tremendous improvements to what we have now and yet cost the taxpayer nothing.

It should also be noted that The Times refers to the Baucus plan as a bill, yet the plan is not yet in legislative language and is not yet a bill, really. We don't actually know what it's going to say in the end. Or what it will cost.

The Times points out that "Revenue from proposed new taxes and savings from slowing the growth of Medicare costs would more than make up for the cost of covering some 29 million uninsured people" but who is going to pay the price of that Medicare cut? Our seniors, of course. Jeffrey H. Anderson, writing at NRO, says that the Baucus plan will "gut Medicare Advantage and would cut a total of $404 billion from Medicare and related federal health programs in its first ten years alone."

We already know one way those cuts will come - through rationing, as explained here. Every year those that exceed the "resource use" will be fined. Each year the top 10% of offenders will be fined. Every year.

The Times celebrates the fact that the Baucus plan will
raise money "by imposing fees on health care providers" but who will really pay that money? Will health care providers really eat that increase or will they pass it on to you? That, combined with other provisions in the Baucus plan, will cause premiums to skyrocket.

Go back to Anderson at NRO who explains: "If you were an insurer and the bill were to pass, I suspect you'd do one of two things: You'd either raise premiums dramatically for the vast majority of people who are generally healthy — knowing that you'd have to charge the same premium to those who aren't, or you'd find a new line of work." Because all plans require insurers to accept all applicants despite any preexisting conditions, insurers are going to have to cover their liability by charging everyone more.

Ultimately many private insurers are going to close shop leaving a large number of Americans shopping for a new plan or forced into a government plan.

Another troubling aspect, to my mind, is that everyone will be forced to have insurance or else pay a fine. In a free society this seems troubling. I'm not sure it's even legal to force someone to buy something they may not want. At any rate, The Times lauds the plan's scheme to soak the rich when they say, "Near-universal coverage is also needed to provide a large risk pool in which the premiums from healthy people on the exchanges can help subsidize the premiums of sick people."

In the opinion of The Times, it seems that the perfect plan would be paid for by the rich and by the elderly, would cover every single American, do nothing about tort reform, and shut down private insurers.

The loophole regarding illegals continues to gape open as the provision to verify legal residency was beat down. It's all well and good to say that no illegals will be covered, but if you don't know and you can't verify, what's the stop-gap going to be?

Despite The Time's giddy glee over the CBO report and the progress of the Baucus plan, there is still much work to do and the best plan would be to start over and listen to some of the Republican ideas which The Times remains deaf to; tort reform, portability, tax credits, and incentives for healthy lifestyles all would go further to creating a more palatable plan than anything Congress has done so far.

Update: Via Memeorandum, here is an analysis from the Washington Examiner.


Chris M. said...

I recall that at least one of the bills under consideration mandated jail time for people who did not buy insurance. Do you think there is much danger of that becoming a part of the Baucus bill at any point?

MarySue said...

Chris, the jail time was in the Baucus Bill. I think they are toning down the cost of the penalties but they have to have a big stick to force young people in the system otherwise the guaranteed issue falls completely apart.

If they lower the penalties the first year to $200 they are not going to get many people in the system. The hospitals, insurers and drug companies are all on board because this is supposed to get most in the system. This whole thing should fall apart like a house of cards.