The Democratic-controlled Congress reached another hurdle in achieving health care "reform." The Senate Finance Committee passed a version, 14-9, with one Republican vote. At last, "bipartisanship"!
It requires people to get health insurance, expands Medicaid, provides tax credits to help low- and middle-income people buying coverage, creates "health insurance exchanges" for individuals and small businesses, and requires employers who don't offer coverage to help pay for employees' government-subsidized coverage.
The price? No one really knows -- and few really care. The only certainty is that whatever Congress says it will cost will fall woefully short of the real cost. Cost projections as grossly inaccurate as the ones government gave for Medicare and Social Security could land someone in the private sector in jail.
The Congressional Budget Office projects a cost of $829 billion over 10 years. But the CBO claims it actually would reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion! How? "Reform" curbs the growth of spending on federal health care programs. In Washington, when predicted future spending rises less than previously projected, we've "saved" money. The legislation would impose taxes on health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies.
Under this latest legislation, insurance companies could not deny coverage or charge more for pre-existing medical problems. Initially, the insurance companies went along with that because they expected Congress to require everybody to get coverage. This would mean a windfall to the insurance companies. But wait! The bill would soften the penalties for those who fail to get insurance, and the insurance companies now oppose the bill. "The bill imposes hundreds of billions of dollars in new health care taxes and provides an incentive for people to wait until they are sick to purchase coverage," said Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans -- an expense to insurance companies that would be paid for by all their customers.
Meanwhile, this latest bit of legislation needs to be reconciled with a measure passed by another Senate committee back in July. And a whole host of heavily Democratic-backed options are still on the table -- including requiring businesses to cover employees and a government-run public option.
It's not as if some states haven't tried this kind of something-for-nothing health care.