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I suppose I should write about yesterday's bipartisan health care summit, although I'm not sure exactly why. Nothing was accomplished. Nothing changed. Republicans believe the existing comprehensive health care reform bills should be scrapped and a more incremental approach should be taken. Democrats believe the whole health care shebang should be changed with one 2,400-2.700 page bill. We already knew these things going into the historic health care summit, and that's where things stand today. What both sides do agree upon is that we need health insurance reform of some kind.
Btw, the only reason I'm calling the health care summit 'historic' is because CNN referred to it that way about 5,000 times yesterday. I'm not sure what was so historic about it, except for the fact that it occurred. By that definition, everything that happens is historic. By that definition, I'm writing a historic blog entry right now. However, I don't think I'll be notifying the Smithsonian of my efforts. I'm not that impressed with myself, and I wasn't that impressed with the health care summit. It wasn't exactly the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation. Those are things I consider historic. I suppose if one hadn't paid any attention to the nearly year-long health care debate, and then watched yesterday's summit, it would have been illuminating. For anyone who has been paying attention, it was just more of the same. I'm trying to think of anything I learned that I didn't know before, and I can only think of one thing. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said if we took away all the profits of all the insurance companies, it would pay for 2 days of health care, leaving the other 363 days of the year still to be paid. I didn't know that before.
There were some ironic moments in the summit. The despicable Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) tried to claim that none of the Democrats were talking about using reconciliation to pass the health care reform bill, in response to Lamar Alexander urging Democrats not to use it. After Reid's denial that the Democrats were considering using reconciliation, several other Dems voiced their tacit approval of the tactic, including the President hiimself, thus disproving Reid. You always can tell when Harry Reid is lying...his lips move.
President Obama and Senator Alexander got into an argument over whether the Senate health care reform bill raises or lowers premiums. Alexander pointed out that CBO scoring shows premiums will be 10-13% higher than they were before health care reform. Obama said no, they would be 14-20% lower. Who was correct ? Alexander was correct, but there are some qualifications. If a person could keep the exact same private insurance they had now under ObamaCare, that person's premiums would be lower, as Obama claimed. However, under ObamaCare you CAN'T keep the exact same insurance you have now. That's the idea behind reform. Under ObamaCare, there would be all kinds of new government regulations (such as coverage of pre-existing conditions and a ban on recissions) which would drive your insurance premiums higher, as both the CBO and Alexander pointed out. You would get better coverage with ObamaCare, but it will cost more. Also, a lot of individual people would get cheaper coverage due to the subsidies under ObamaCare, but that doesn't drive down the overall cost, it merely transfers the burden from one person to another. The overall cost of ObamaCare is far higher than what we have now, but it will cover 30 million more people. As Obama said himself, covering all those people will cost money.
While I'm on the subject of cost, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) obliterated the Democrats dishonest cost estimates and deficit reductions claims for ObamaCare, as follows:
"The Majority Leader said the bill scores as reducing deficit by $131 billion over the next 10 years.
First a little bit about CBO: I work with them every single day; very good people; great professionals. They do their jobs well. But their job is to score what is placed in front of them. And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is fill of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors.
Now what do I mean when I say that?
First off, the bill has ten years of tax increases and ten years of Medicare cuts to pay for six years of spending. The true ten year cost when subsidies kick-in? $2.3 trillion.
The bill is full of gimmicks that more than erase the false claim of deficit reduction:
- $52 billion of savings is claimed by counting increased Social Security payroll revenues. These dollars are already claimed for future Social Security beneficiaries, and claiming to offset the cost of this bill either means were double-counting or were not going to pay Social Security benefits.
- $72 billion in savings is claimed from the CLASS Act long-term care insurance. These so-called savings are not offsets, but rather premiums collected to pay for future benefits. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has called these savings, A ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
Additionally, the nearly half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts cannot be counted twice. Medicare is in dire need of reform in order to make certain that we can ensure health security for future seniors.
Using Medicare as a piggy bank, it raids a half trillion dollars from retirees health coverage to fund the creation of another open-ended health care entitlement.
The Presidents chief Medicare actuary says up to 20% of Medicare providers may go bankrupt or stop taking Medicare beneficiaries as a result. Millions of seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage they now enjoy.
Objections to the policy aside, you cannot use these savings twice to both extend the life of Medicare and to pay for other spending. The half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts are either to extend the programs solvency or to reduce the cost of this deficit but not both as its authors claim.
When you strip away the double-counting of Medicare cuts, the so-called savings from Social Security payroll taxes and the CLASS Act, the deficit increases by $460 billion over first ten years and $1.4 trillion over second ten years.
Finally, one of the most expensive and most cynical of the gimmicks applies to Medicare physician payments, the so-called Doc Fix.
By your own estimate, the Doc Fix adds an additional $371 billion to the cost of health care reform. With the price tag beyond what most Americans could handle, the Majority decided to simply remove this costly provision and deal with it in a stand-alone bill.
Ignoring this additional cost does not remove it from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending doesnt reduce spending."
After this de-pantsing of health care reform costs, the President immediately changed the subject to Medicare Advantage. No Democrat offered a shred of evidence to counter Ryan. Good job, Rep. Ryan. The truth will set you (and us) free.
In general, I noticed that the Democrats tended to offer emotional pleas for health care reform, while Republicans tended to offer more logical solutions. A slew of Democrats told what I call 'poor little Jimmy' stories, about how poor little Jimmy needed a kidney transplant or something, and the mean old insurance company wouldn't pay for it, or poor little Jimmy's parents couldn't afford health insurance because Jimmy's dad lost his job, etc. Democrats specialize in using the sad story as a weapon. It's like they are saying Americans should go along with absolutely anything the Democrats propose, because the Democrats are so GOOD, so moral. This kind of anti-logical thinking can be dangerous, because if we bankrupt our country or destroy our health care system in the process of "fixing" health care insurance, we'll have even more 'poor little jimmy' stories than we have now. We can't think only with our hearts. We must think with our heads as well. I'd love to be able to wave a magic wand and have everybody get comprehensive health insurance that will cover everybody and everything for ten cents per month, but it just isn't realistic. As they say, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
In summary, if you look at health care reform as a moral obligation, a right, then you might favor ObamaCare, the costs be damned. If you look at it as a massive increase in entitlements when the country is already suffocating under the weight of existing entitlements, if you look at it as increasing taxes on our struggling economy and imposing new burdens on our already struggling businesses, if you look at it as another massive increase in the size of big government, then you are probably against ObamaCare. The polls show the majority of people are against ObamaCare (but for health care reform in general). This lends some popular support for the Republicans 'back to the drawing board' suggestion.
If you missed the health care summit, the Washington Post has a transcript here.