Tag: health care overhaul

Media Coverage of the Health Care Overhaul

Over the course of the health care debate, the media often reported and editorialized – and sometimes it was impossible to tell the difference – quite favorably on the Democratic proposals running through Congress. While some upheld their journalistic responsibility to scrutinize and offer objective analysis of the legislation, many did not.

It was not surprising to read stories almost daily about how Obamacare would lift millions of poor, elderly, sick, and generally down-trodden Americans out of financial and medical crisis, and even go so far as to singlehandedly save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans over the course of the next decade. (It would even provide one free turkey for Thanksgiving to every family living 400 percent below the poverty level.)

This morning, however, the headlines read something like this:

  • Lawmakers, Staff May Lose Coverage” (New York Times): Adds the Times, “The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?”

My question is this: where were these reporters before the passage of the health care bill?

Wednesday Links

  • John McCain channels Dick Cheney: On March 4, McCain introduced a bill that  “would require that anyone anywhere in the world, including American citizens, suspected of involvement in terrorism – including ‘material support’ (otherwise undefined) – can be imprisoned by the military on the authority of the president as commander in chief.”
  • President Obama declared passage of a major student-aid reform law yesterday. Will it help? Cato education expert Neal McCluskey calls it a mixed bag.
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Thursday Links

  • Now that the health care bill is law, you should know exactly how it’s going to affect you, your premiums, and your coverage over the next few years. Here’s a helpful breakdown.
  • As the health care overhaul crosses home plate, global warming legislation steps up to bat.
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Yet. Another. Fraudulent. Cost Estimate.

House Democrats claim that a not-yet-released Congressional Budget Office report puts the cost of their revised health care overhaul at $940 billion over the next 10 years.

Though I have yet to see the CBO score, I’ll bet anyone a fancy lunch that it does not claim the legislation would cost the federal government just $940 billion from 2010 through 2019.

As former Congressional Budget Office director Donald Marron has explained over and over, the figure that Democrats consistently cite for the cost of their bills is only the CBO’s estimate of the cost of federal spending related to the expansion of health insurance coverage.  It is not the full cost to the federal government, because each bill also spends taxpayer dollars on other items.

Marron examined the CBO’s March 11 score of the bill that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, and found an additional $96 billion of spending over 10 years.  If the most recent iteration of ObamaCare is similar, then new federal spending in that bill would be approximately $1.036 trillion – pushing the total over the president’s spending target.

Anyone care to take me up on that fancy-lunch wager?

Moreover, the on-budget costs of the legislation probably account for only 40 percent of the total costs.  The other 60 percent come from the private-sector mandates.  But Democrats have systematically suppressed any estimates of those hidden taxes, probably because such an estimate would reveal the full cost of the legislation to be closer to $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

It has been 272 days since Democrats introduced the first complete version of the president’s health plan.  We still haven’t seen an honest cost estimate.

House Procedure—and Transparency in Collapse

Over on the WashingtonWatch.com blog, I’ve laid out in the simplest terms I could what’s going on in terms of procedure with health care overhaul legislation. The post, called “What is Deeming, Anyway?”, comes in at a mere 900 words… If you’re a real public policy junkie, you might like it.

But what about the transparency oriented processes that President Obama and leaders like Speaker Pelosi promised the public? Recall that the Speaker promised to post the health care bill online for 72 hours before a vote back in September.

There was debate about whether she stuck to her promise then. And it was probably a one-time promise. It’s almost certain that she will not do so now. If she lines up the votes to pass the bill, the vote will happen. Right. Then.

What about President Obama’s promise to put health care negotiations on C-SPAN? The daylong roundtable debate on health care was an engaging illustration of what happens when you do transparent legislating. Voters got a clearer picture of where each side stands—and perhaps saw that there actually is some competence on both sides of the aisle. Some competence.

The health care negotiations going on right now are the ones that matter. This is when the most important details are being hammered out. This is when the bargaining that draws the public’s ire is happening. But I’m not seeing it on C-SPAN.

President Obama’s promise may have been naive, but that doesn’t excuse breaking it. The inside negotiations going on this week represent an ongoing violation of the president’s C-SPAN promise.

And there’s good reason to anticipate that the president will violate his Sunlight Before Signing promise as well. This was his promise to post bills online for five days after he receives them from Congress before signing them into law.

The reason why I’m so confident of a prospective violation—aside from the promise being flouted more often than not—is that the White House has posted the Senate-passed health care overhaul bill on the “Pending Legislation” page of Whitehouse.gov. H.R. 3590 as passed by the Senate is right there in among the bills Congress has passed, which are getting their five-day public review.

If the White House plans to argue that the health care overhaul legislation got the five-day public review President Obama promised, that will not fly at all.

The substance of the Sunlight Before Signing promise is to post bills for five days after Congress’ final vote. (I’ve recommended starting the clock at “presentment,” the formal constitutional step when the president receives a bill from Congress.)

Something other than that, such as posting the Senate bill before it passes the House—while failing to post the “fixer” bill for five days—would fundamentally violate the president’s transparency promise.

What an irony if all this were to happen this week, which, after all, is Sunshine Week!

AP: Obama Misleads Voters about ObamaCare’s Effects on Premiums

The Associated Press reports:

Buyers, beware: President Barack Obama says his health care overhaul will lower premiums by double digits, but check the fine print…

The [Congressional Budget Office] concluded that premiums for people buying their own coverage would go up by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent, compared with the levels they’d reach without the legislation…

“People are likely to not buy the same low-value policies they are buying now,” said health economist Len Nichols of George Mason University. “If they did buy the same value plans … the premium would be lower than it is now. This makes the White House statement true. But is it possibly misleading for some people? Sure.”

Nichols’ comments are also misleading – which makes the president’s statement not just misleading but untrue.

Under ObamaCare, people would not have the option to buy the same low-cost plans they do today.  That’s the whole problem: under an individual mandate, everybody must purchase the minimum level of coverage specified by the government.  That minimum benefits package would be more expensive than the coverage chosen by most people in the individual market.  Their premiums would rise because ObamaCare would take away their right to choose a more economical policy.

Note also that the CBO predicts premiums would rise by an average of 10-13 percent in the individual market.  Consumers who currently purchase the most economic policies would see larger premium increases.

Finally, the Obama plan would also force millions of uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance at premiums higher than current-law premium levels, which they have already rejected as being too high.  Their premium expenditures would rise from $0 to thousands of dollars.  Yet the CBO counts that implicit tax as reducing average premiums, because those consumers are generally healthier-than-average.  Only in Washington is a tax counted as a savings.

Obama’s ‘Best’ Idea? Rationing Care via Clinton-esque Price Controls

Hoping to revive his increasingly unpopular health care overhaul, President Obama has invited Republicans to a bipartisan summit this Thursday and plans to introduce a new reform blueprint in advance of the summit.  On Sunday, the White House announced that a key feature of that blueprint will be premium caps, a form of government price control that helped kill the Clinton health plan when even New Democrats rejected it.

The New York Times reports on President Obama’s blueprint:

The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, potentially superseding state insurance regulators.

It bears repeating what Obama’s top economic advisor Larry Summers thinks about price controls:

Price and exchange controls inevitably create harmful economic distortions. Both the distortions and the economic damage get worse with time.

For example, as I have written elsewhere, artificially limiting premium growth allows the government to curtail spending while leaving the dirty work of withholding medical care to private insurers: “Premium caps, which Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is currently threatening to impose, force private insurers to manage care more tightly — i.e., to deny coverage for more services.”  No doubt the Obama administration would lay the blame for coverage denials on private insurers and claim that such denials demonstrate the need for a so-called “public option.”

As the Progressive Policy Institute’s David Kendall explained in a 1994 paper, the Clinton health plan contained similar price controls.  Kendall explains why they would be a disaster:

In spite of the late hour in the health care debate, Congress has not yet decided how to restrain runaway health care costs. The essential choices are a top- down strategy of government limits on health care spending enforced by price controls or a bottom-up strategy of consumer choice and market competition. History clarifies that choice: Previous government efforts to regulate prices in peacetime have invariably failed. Moreover, government attempts to control prices in the health care sector would undermine concurrent efforts to restructure the marketplace…

The idea of controlling costs by government fiat is seductively simple. But it rests on a conceit as persistent as it is damaging: that government bureaucracies can allocate resources more wisely and efficiently than millions of consumers and providers pursuing their interests in the marketplace. The alternative – one rooted in America’s progressive tradition of individual responsibility and free enterprise – is to improve the market’s ground rules in order to decentralize decision-making, spur innovation, reward efficiency, and respect personal choice.

As centrally planned economies crumble around the world, many in the United States seem bent on erecting a command and control economy in health care. This policy briefing examines the reasons why government price regulation would fail to constrain health care costs and create many adverse side effects…

Ultimately, government price regulation will always fail because it does not change the underlying economic forces driving up prices. If we are serious about slowing the growth of health care costs, we have to change the ways we consume and provide medical care. Price controls evade the hard but essential work of structural reform in health care markets: They are a quintessentially political response to an economic problem. The alternative is to allow well-functioning markets to set prices and allocate resources, while ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable health care coverage. The market-oriented approach leaves decisions to cost-conscious consumers and health care providers rather than bureaucrats.

Any of that sound familiar?  It’s worth reading the whole thing.

This is not hope.  This is not change.  (Much less a game-changer.)  It is, to pinch a phrase, a return to “the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis.”