October 6, 2008 7:11PM

False or Misleading in Every Particular

Barack Obama currently has the following health-care ad in the field. 

It's an effort to make Obama's health plan appear moderate.  That's quite a trick, considering the plan might give Washington more control over the health-care sector than the Clinton health plan.  So pretty much the only way they could create the appearance of moderation was to write a script that is false or misleading in every particular.

The ad begins:

Health care reform.  Two extremes.  On one end, government-run health care, higher taxes.  On the other, insurance companies, without rules, denying coverage.  Barack Obama says both extremes are wrong. 

Those are not opposing extremes.  In fact, Obama pursues government-run health care, higher taxes, and insurance companies denying coverage, all at once. 

  1. Obama expands government-run health care.  Obama proposes to create a new government-run health care program modeled on Medicare for people under age 65.  One estimate suggests that program would enroll 45 million Americans.  He also proposes to expand Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.  Those expansions would enroll at least another 6 million Americans in government programs.  He also gives government a great deal more control over private-sector health care.  (See below.)
  2. Obama pursues higher taxes.  Funding those government programs will require higher taxes.  Obama admits he would raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Obama would increase taxes on (nearly) all workers.  His proposed "pay or play" employer mandate would take money out of workers' paychecks before workers even see it.  Finally, Obama would require insurance companies to charge healthy 18-year-olds the same premiums as 55-year-olds with multiple chronic conditions.  That constitutes a further tax on young and healthy workers that would force them to pay far more in premiums than they generate in costs. 
  3. Obama encourages insurers to deny coverage.  If the average 18-year-old makes $1,000 in claims per year, the average 55-year-old makes $20,000 in claims, and each pays a premium of $12,000, whom will insurance companies court, and whom will they avoid?  By requiring insurers to charge everyone the same average premium, Obama guarantees that insurers will avoid and provide lousy care to the sick whenever possible.  That problem already exists in states with community-rating laws and the Medicare program.  It doesn't even matter if insurers deny care to the sick deliberately or not; Obama would reward them even if they do so unintentionally.  Finally, Obama proposes a new federal agency whose very purpose is to help insurers deny care.

The ad continues:

His plan.  Keep your employer-paid coverage.  Keep your own doctor.

Actually, once Obama gives himself the power to dictate the price and content of every health plan in the nation, his first act would be to eliminate the most affordable 30-50 percent of health plans currently on the market.  At the same time, his National Health Insurance Exchange would set off the ol' adverse selection death spiral, which numerous studies suggest would eliminate comprehensive health plans from the market.  An awful lot of Americans would have to switch health plans, and would lose their doctors in the process.  Those who go from private to Medicaid coverage are going to have an awful time finding a doctor.

Take on insurance companies to bring down costs.  Cover pre-existing conditions and preventive care.

Nothing in the Obama plan would "take on insurance companies to bring down costs."  Covering pre-existing conditions would increase costs.  Obama proposes to force insurance companies to spend less on administration and more on claims, but that too would increase costs.  The insurance companies will just game and lobby Congress until Obama's plan works to their advantage. 

Obama claims he would boost preventive care.  Yet his National Health Insurance Exchange would let people switch plans every year, giving insurers absolutely no incentive to invest in consumers' long-term health.

Common sense for the change we need. 

Um, yeah.

"I'm Barack Obama, and I approved this message."

Well, I suppose that part is true.

There is one ray of hope.  The beginning of the ad says that Obama thinks that "government-run health care [and] higher taxes" are "wrong."  Maybe, with enough persuasion, we can turn him against his own health plan.