In a move sure to embolden Democrats desperately seeking health care reform, the Congressional Budget Office has released findings that the legislation currently working its way through the Senate Finance Committee will cost approximately $829 billion over the next ten years. Media outlets are touting the legislation as if it actually saves $81 billion over the decade.
What’s that smell? It smells like . . . like . . . oh, yeah — crap.
When Congress was first weighing the possible consequences of Medicare back in 1965, the entire program cost $3 billion. Furthermore, at that time, concerned about the future costs and obligations associated with such a large entitlement program, the House Ways and Means Committee projected that it would cost $12 billion by 1991, including an allowance for inflation.
As it turns out, Congress was only $95 billion off. In 1991, Medicare cost American taxpayers more than $107 billion, far beyond the $12 billion projected at the time of the program’s establishment. And things have gotten progressively more expensive; in 2008, the budget for Medicare was $444 billion.
Consider that again — when it came to Medicare, Congress predicted $12 billion, and reality was $107. What can we expect with a projected cost of $82.9 billion per year (if it were evenly split)?
Consider another question — when has the American federal government ever slashed the costs associated with any government program? That, I think, is only one of the reasons why The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore just told Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto that the numbers are a “fantasy,” citing several flaws in the CBO’s analysis.
“Anybody who believes that we’re going to create this near-trillion-dollar entitlement and the government will save money is living in la-la land,” Moore said.
First of all, the CBO estimates assume that Congress will identify and excise between $400 and $500 billion in waste and fraud from Medicare. Now, I’ve pointed out several times here before that, if the government were able to reduce and eliminate waste, it would have done so. But we also should consider that cutting $500 billion from Medicare to fund an even more expensive and unsustainable government program would be the equivalent of neglecting to fund Medicare at all for a full year. Tell that to your grandparents.
Secondly, the CBO estimates that, after ten years, more than 25 million residents of the United States will still be uninsured. Fortunately, that number includes illegal immigrants, but I’m not certain at this time whether or not there is any sort of provision ensuring that citizenship be validated before benefits can be received. Any way you look at it, however, this number cuts the legs out from under the primary argument in favor of health care reform — the need to immediately ensure that everybody has coverage. Not only would everybody not have coverage, but the effects of the bill would not begin until 2013, one year after the next presidential election. If the need to cover everybody is so important and immediate, why not ensure that everyone is covered, and why wait until 2013? The answer is simple: it’s not about health care — it’s about control.
Third, the legislation includes a mandate. If businesses do not provide health care for employees, they face a penalty of anywhere between $750 and $1000. I have a few problems with this:
- I’d love for someone on Capitol Hill to point out to me where, in the United States Constitution, the federal government has the right and the authority to mandate health insurance coverage.
- For small and medium-sized business owners, it would be infinitely cheaper to just pay the penalty than continue to fund employee health care.
With regard to the former, I’m sure the provision is right there next to the right to homeownership which the Democrats read into our founding documents and used to facilitate the destruction of our economy. With regard to the latter, if people are booted from employer-based plans, where are they to go? The public option, after all, is at least nominally off the table. And if the answer from Max Baucus and his liberal flunkies is that they’ll go to a federally-funded, federally-operated, not-for-profit health care co-op, then there is essentially no difference between the Baucus co-op scenario and the public option scenario — both would push private insurers out of the marketplace, and America and the American people would eventually be in a position where we’re looking at a single-payer system of some form.
And we shouldn’t forget — that’s exactly what the Democrats and the president have wanted for a long, long time.
Does the health care system in America need reform? Absolutely. But it should be reform through the facilitation of the free market. Open up coverage options to interstate competition. Reduce frivolous lawsuits to drive down costs. Do everything we can to foster competition among private entities that all play by the same rules, that all have to show at least moderate profits for shareholders.
We can even harness the free market to ensure that every American is provided catastrophic coverage. Whether it is with a fund stocked with money from private insurers, whether it is facilitated by charitable organizations or whether it comes from even a small government fund, it would not compete with and drive out private insurers, it would provide catastrophic coverage to every American, and it would cost far less than $82 billion per year.
Today’s report from the CBO will embolden Democrats. As Americans concerned about the burdens to be shouldered by our children and our children’s children, we need to make sure that the numbers are placed in perspective.