Michael Barone

Then there are the Medicare cuts that supposedly would finance the Baucus bill. But this Congress can't bind future Congresses, and Congresses controlled by both parties have regularly cancelled projected cuts in reimbursement rates. Democratic leaders have made this easier by exempting such actions from its pay-go rules.

So as Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute points out, "Universal coverage is so expensive that Congress can't get there without taxing Democrats." So when those taxes are cut on low and middle earners, there's not enough money to finance the deals the White House has been making with health care interest groups.

The insurers and medical device people are squawking now -- look for more squawking from pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and physicians' groups when they get targeted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she doesn't feel bound by deals the White House has made.

The Senate Finance Committee got bipartisan cover from Maine Republican Olympia Snowe. But Snowe says she was just voting to "continue the process" and won't necessarily vote for the bill Senate leaders will meld from the Finance and Health committee versions.

So the learning process may not be over. We know now that it costs a lot of money to pay for insurance policies with expanded coverage for an expanded number of people. And we know that no one wants to pay the price.

We may be in the process of learning something else. Which is that insurance coverage that further insulates patients from costs results in unanticipated increases in health care spending. Yes, it bends the cost curve, but in the wrong direction. That's what has happened with the much-praised Massachusetts system.

Democratic leaders may still have the votes to jam something through. In which case it could, as the Atlantic's Megan McArdle predicts, "spin out of control and eat a gigantic hole in the deficit." Who's going to pay for that?

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM