Because Democrats like to hold office, it cannot be that they are moved only by ideological rigidity. They must be convinced that once their reform becomes law, voters will be happy with it. They must also believe that the voters are as insincere as Democrats themselves are when they express worry about the size of the national debt.
But the gamble may not pay off. Between now and 2010, the ramifications of the Democrats' truly reckless plunge into the deepest debt in our history will become clearer. Conservative estimates put the number of new bureaus, commissions, and agencies hidden in those 2,000 page bills at 100 -- all staffed with bureaucrats ready to complicate the process of getting well.
A proposal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears to be touting will permit a "buy in" to Medicare for those between the ages of 55 and 64. Do they expect this to be popular? Medicare already has an unfunded liability of $89 trillion. Only a Democrat could conclude that the solution to the problem of vastly overpromised government benefits is more promises.
Medicare also fails to pay the full costs of care for its patients. Hospitals and providers recoup the difference by charging higher premiums to those with private health insurance. The Pacific Research Institute estimates that Medicare shifts almost $50 billion in costs to the private sector annually. More Medicare beneficiaries will translate into more cost shifting. Private insurance rates will have to rise. This will not surprise voters, 63 percent of whom expect their premiums to increase under the Democrats' reform. Details like the Medicare expansion and substantial new taxes tucked into the small print will not play well. Voters will ask themselves: Why is this burden being imposed again?
Surveying his polling results, Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said, "It's a good thing for those pushing the health care overhaul in Congress that the American people don't get a vote."
But they do -- eventually.
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