Last week the Congressional Budget Office "scored" the House of Representatives' revised health insurance "public option" and found it would charge premiums higher than those of private insurance and attract only six million buyers.
Thus, the growing worry that a public option would undercut private policies and soon drive them out of business seemed to evaporate. Speaker Pelosi, cheerleader for a "public option," gloated that the consolidated House bill came in under President Obama's declared ceiling cost of $900 billion and would not add to the deficit.
The case for passage seemed airtight -- for the moment. House liberals had wheeled in a Trojan Pony (too small to be a horse and, unlike the Trojan Horse, it couldn't hold enough soldiers to rout the enemy).
The CGO scores only what it is given (and is scrupulously objective in its work). It had been given a public option with enough restrictions to raise its initial cost; hence would attract few buyers. This was done to soften the opposition of moderate House Democrats.
Left-wing Democrats for decades have sought government-run universal health insurance. They are driven by ideology, not a desire for universal good health. They believe in outcomes, not opportunity. In the case of health care, that means that those who cannot pay for health insurance will get it cost-free from the government. Those who are deemed unable to pay will grow in number with each passing year. Never mind that countries with universal government "care" have rationing and long waits. Precise equality is more important than healthy citizens.
The left has been at this so long that it is willing to settle for incrementalism. Case in point: S-CHIPS (State Children's Insurance Plan System), which Congress expanded this year. The stated goal: make sure all children have health coverage. Now eligible are families with incomes up to $60,000 annually whose children can be up to 25 years of age. You can see where this is headed.
So it will be with Pelosi's deceptively toothless "public option." If the bill passes with this in it, they will settle for it this way for a year or so, then "strengthen" it so that premiums plunge.
When they do, many small businesses will decide that paying the government tax for not covering their employees will cost less than covering them and -- surprise! -- millions will be forced to flock to the "public option." Then, goodbye private insurance and all that Obama talk about "if you like your coverage you get to keep it."
With a majority of Americans telling pollsters they do not like sweeping health care "reform" of the sort Obama and his Congressional allies have been cooking up, it will take little time for organized opposition to unmask the current "public option" for Trojan Pony it is.
Furthermore, the pony will soon go lame for two others reasons. Until several days ago, Obamacare had in it a sop to buy off the American Medical Association. That sop was a replacement of $247 billion in Medicare fee cuts to doctors. This was shot down in the Senate by all Republicans, 11 Democrats and Independent Joe Lieberman. Take the $247 billion out of the total Obamacare price tag and it comes in just under the magical total of $900 billion.
As to the claim that Obamacare will not add "one dime" to the deficit, it would be briefly true only because the plan's proposed new taxes would be levied beginning next year, but the benefits would not kick in for five years. Present projections only go out for 10. Some deal: pay for it for 10 years; get five years worth of benefits. If Mr. Obama were a health or life insurance salesman and tried to sell policies that way, he'd be shown the door by the customers.
And so the Trojan Pony will indeed soon go lame.
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