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$1.5 Trillion Gives Me Heartburn

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

House Democrats have unveiled their new healthcare plan on which the Congressional Budget Office puts a price tag of $1.5 trillion.

For $1.5 trillion every American should get his or her own concierge doctor.

This is another one of the 1.5 trillion page bills which only lobbyists and insurance company lawyers will read from cover-to-cover. But the major dailies had some of the high points in their Wednesday editions. Actually the bill is only 1,018 pages long so some summer interns will read it, too.

USA Today's AP story has this:

The federal government would be responsible for ensuring that every person, regardless of income or the state of their health, has access to an affordable insurance plan. Individuals and employers would have new obligations to get coverage, or face hefty penalties.

Ok. Sounds good. Until you learn that "medical providers, employers and the wealthiest picking up most of the tab."

Doctor's aren't doing all that well right now. It's not at all clear to me how "medical providers" are going to help pick up much of that $1.5 trillion, but that's not the really scary part.

It is easy to say the top wage earners are going to subsidized this, but a tax increase is a tax increase and a lot of Democrats running for re-election next year may not be as eager as Nancy Pelosi to go home and explain why they have returned to the liberal economic theory that success must be punished.

And, don't send me a nasty-gram on that liberal business. The AP called it a "liberal-leaning plan" and the LA Times called it "the most liberal of several competing" plans.

According to the LA Times, "Employers would be given an option to provide coverage or pay the government a fee based on 8% of their payroll."

Why is that scary? Because if you were the CFO of a major company and you had the option of ditching your current health insurance plan for your employees - including all the overhead attached to managing that plan - you might well say, "Eight percent? And I'm out of the health insurance business? How quickly can I sign up?

And, just like that, the private health insurance of millions of employees is gone. And, just like that, millions of employees are covered by a government-run insurance program.

Sooner or later insurance companies will lose the mass they need to be insurance companies and get out of the general health plan biz altogether. When that happens where to we turn? The only place left: The Federal Government.

Oh. Look at this! I actually knew what I was talking about, even though I didn't know I knew. Deep in the AP piece is this:

Insurers say that combination would drive many of them out of business since the public plan would be able to offer lower premiums to virtually all Americans.

Small businesses - those with annual payrolls of under $250,000 - are exempt from the requirement to provide health insurance or pay the 8% fee. But they will have a hard time keeping employees if they don't offer health insurance, so they will ultimately get sucked into the system as well.

But, before you go out and start trying to get healthy by eating better and exercising more, consider this from the LA Times:

Foreshadowing the expected legislative battles ahead, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who has been working on a more moderate version, said, "I don't think it's going to go anywhere in the Senate."

Whew! I feel better already.

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