Hurray for the voters of Massachusetts.
Our president attributes the recent string of election losses for the Democrats and public opposition to his legislative agenda to a generalized sense of anger—the kind that swept him into office. Is this (A) failure to comprehend, (B) spin, (C) arrogance or (D) all of the above?
At this point, I have had to read several versions of the House and Senate bills which are 2,000 and 2,500 pages, respectively. I have a generalized and specific sense of anger at how poor the work product is. Like a number of Americans, I have concerns over increasing entitlement costs, debt, and massive government. These bills would legally carve Americans and federal programs into various categories of winners and losers—unfairly and illogically. What has caught media attention is really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s worth our time to keep looking because these bills were so close to becoming law.
Many of the provisions constitute backroom deals, political payoffs for members of the party in power, and pay offs to special interests. There are the Nelson (Sens. Bill and Ben) sweetheart deals: Nebraska becomes exempt at the expense of others while certain districts in South Florida are exempt from cuts in Medicare Advantage. Sen. Mary Landrieu gets $300 million as a specific Louisiana deal.
Unions support a punitive tax of 40 percent on high-cost health plans for workers, as long as they are not certain unions’ workers. This means a politically constituency is saved from the ax while other Americans are happily placed on the chopping block.
On the other hand, union bosses are perfectly willing to discriminate against low-income union workers in their own ranks. Of the $2.5 trillion in new subsidies available over a 10-year window from 2014-2023 nothing would likely go to low-income workers whose employers provide insurance as part of their compensation for work. Not really a fair approach. These same low-income workers would also face pressure for reductions in positions and outsourcing of work.
The bills would have bureaucrats dictate the practice of medicine. Under the Senate bill, government regulation of medicine through insurers will distort roles.
Unbelievably, the House bill has special provisions providing grants certain perpetrators of child sexual abuse. I kid you not. Democrats in the House voted for this. It’s like a low income worker in a company pays for his own health insurance—may be even subject to a new 40 percent additional cost—by his or her work. But under the Indian-health related provisions of the House bill, buried in the back of the 2,000 page behemoth—a perpetrator of child sexual abuse gets taxpayer funding for treatment, regardless of whether he has the means to pay. It’s PC gone wild.
Neither bill lowers health care costs. Having some Americans pay for the health care of other Americans does not lower health care costs. There are more pages in these bills devoted to making sure that services are “culturally and linguistically appropriate” than there are to keep costs down. Have the authors thought about how difficult it is to have language police to monitor whether insurers or providers can match dozens of languages?
Over and over again, the bills break the president’s commitment that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. Sure, you can keep your plan but only as long as you pay the extra cost from the 40 percent tax. Beyond that your employer must change the design of your plan in 200 ways and watch as government advisory groups and bureaucracy rewrite the plans every year.
The bills use sham budget tricks and would drive up debt and deficits. The bills create draconian cuts to health care providers and suppliers. These cuts won’t stand but it sure got the Congressional Budget Office to fool a few Blue Dog Democrats.
Much has been written but I fear we will not spend enough time exposing the depth of these problems. We will be prone to move on with the perceived danger abated. But it hasn’t really. Every Congress—regardless of party—spends and regulates more. Certainly, the level of spin, poor quality and arrogance can vary but the drive toward even more debt, spending and government will continue. Regardless, when you are moving in the wrong direction you don’t step on the gas. We should not leave pro-government, Washington political class with this much power again. Not if we want a future where government has not swallowed the private sector and mired us all with illogical divisions, politically corrupt rules, and loss of common sense.
Nandan Kenkeremath worked as a senior staff on Capitol Hill for 17 years.