Democrats are spending trillions on a Christmas present that a majority of Americans don’t want: health care legislation loaded with more debt, more taxes, and more regulations. Like your Aunt Phyllis’ fruitcake, it’s on the way and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
It’s easier to believe in Santa Claus and flying reindeer than the idea that the deficit will be reduced under the House and Senate bills. The bills are riddled with fiscal gimmicks — like assuming that Medicare physician payments will take a 21 percent cut in 2010, even though everyone knows they won’t. (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid already have legislation ready to undo the cuts.)
That provision alone adds another $200 billion to the price tag of Democrats’ reforms — which means that, when added to the other hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts and rate reductions that are equally unlikely to appear as scheduled, the Democrats plans will drown our children and grandchildren in a sea of red ink.
The Democrats take an arbitrary and unfair health insurance system … and keep it arbitrary and unfair. Uninsured Americans making up to $88,000 a year will be eligible for subsidies to buy insurance on new state-based exchanges starting in 2014 — but only if you aren’t offered insurance through your workplace.
Under the Democrats’ scheme, if you make $50,000 a year, and are offered employer-based insurance for your family at work, you have to accept it — and the money to pay for it will come out of your paycheck. If you make $50,000 a year and don’t get insurance through work, taxpayers will help buy insurance for your family — letting workers in the exchanges get heavily discounted insurance coverage and higher wages to boot.
The Democrats’ reforms will offer fewer choices at higher prices. The new insurance exchanges will offer three or four variations on the same plan with the government dictating exactly what benefits you have to buy, whether you need them or not — such as substance abuse treatment or prescription drug coverage, driving up costs for even the most basic plans.
Insurers will also be prohibited from charging young and healthy applicants much less than older and sicker ones, mimicking the community rating and guaranteed issue regulations in force in just five high-cost states today.
Bending the curve up, up and away. The whole point of health care reform was supposed to reduce government spending and save money — but the Congressional Budget Office scores the coverage provisions of the Senate bill as costing $200 billion annually by 2019 and growing by 8 percent a year.
Taxes, taxes and more taxes. For the first time, Senate legislation contains a 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax increase that will be used to fund another entitlement program entirely — insurance subsidies for the middle class.
There’s also a 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health plans that isn’t indexed to health care inflation — meaning that, over time, everyone’s health insurance plan (unless you work for one of the many powerful unions that the Democrats shielded from the tax) will be defined as “high cost” and get hit by the penalty.
There are also a slew of new taxes on drug companies, insurance companies, diagnostic companies and tanning salons (yes, you read that right) all sure to be passed along to consumers. But since even after accounting for all these new taxes the math still doesn’t add up, we can expect many more tax increases in short order.
True, the president will expand coverage to millions of Americans — a worthwhile goal. But ultimately, the bill is a giant lump of coal that will burden working Americans with lots of unwelcome guests — debt, red tape, and taxes — long after the holidays have ended.
Paul Howard is the director of the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute and managing editor of MedicalProgressToday.com