Opinion

Lemonade Lessons: Random questions and strange coincidences

Strange coincidences occurred around the time of the recent healthcare vote. FAA grants that had been held up were immediately processed, Medicaid subsidies were given, union carve-outs were agreed to, Medicare Advantage exceptions were made, and hospitals were promised for supporters’ districts. Congressional rules were stretched, parliamentary rulings were made in favor of the parliamentarian’s boss, and backroom deals were made with pharmaceutical and other industries. Presidential promises were broken, meaningless executive orders were signed, and, coincidentally, Air Force One plane rides were given just prior to votes being changed. Apparently, C-Span was not available and there was so much urgency to pass this bill that there was just not enough time to thoroughly read it (in spite of the fact that most of it would not take effect until 2014).

Democrats had plenty of excuses. They kept saying: “this is the way legislation has always been done, Republicans did it this way before, and it’s always ugly to watch the sausage being made.” We were told “the people spoke” in spite of the fact that the proposed healthcare bill polled poorly.

And how about the financial gimmicks? Ten years of taxes paired with six years of benefits. The $200 billion “doctor fix” that was originally in the bill was removed and addressed separately (apparently, only because it has always been treated that way). Proposed Medicare cuts were counted twice, once to extend the solvency of Medicare and one more time to cover the cost of the healthcare benefits.

Then there was the ever-present Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring that calculated that this healthcare initiative cost would be less than a trillion dollars (apparently this number makes it quite a deal). The CBO also said that the healthcare program would be paid for and that it would actually reduce the deficits. Amazingly, somehow Congress is going to cut Medicare by over a half a trillion dollars even though they have never been able to cut even $50 in the past.

Very little attention was given to the restrictive process the CBO was required to use or to the many political manipulations of this scoring. Yet the “speak-truth-to-power” media focused on the phony cost estimates and reported them as meaningful proof that the liberals were being honest about their calculations. I guess they were just fooled. Perhaps the media just does not understand the political process.

Somehow I never heard how many of the 30,000,000 poor souls currently without health insurance who would get covered under this healthcare “reform” would simply be mandated to buy the insurance themselves. Perhaps this number is too small to report.

I also missed the reporting on how insurance companies were going to deal with their mandate to cover new items like pre-existing conditions (a very noble gesture) while the premiums they could charge were being capped at lower-than-current rates. Also absent from the news was information about how actual healthcare costs were going to be reduced as opposed to just shifted from one group to another.

Could it be that some of the healthcare bill’s critics actually had a valid point or two? Do state mandates for coverage actually raise insurance costs? Would malpractice legal reform actually reduce some of the insurance costs? Would health savings accounts actually add some prudence to the system? Could cross-border buying of insurance have some merit? If so, I didn’t hear about it from the media.