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Shhh… Don’t Tell ‘Em What’s In It

As generalities give way to stark details, healthcare reform is going wobbly. The Hill reports:

Congressional Democrats and the White House are scrambling to regain their footing after a series of setbacks has stalled political momentum to reform the nation’s healthcare system. Despite having a popular president in the White House and comfortable majorities in Congress, the Democratic rollout on healthcare reform has encountered significant bumps in the road.

A cost estimate hanging a $1 trillion price tag on an incomplete bill, salvos from powerful interest groups and great uncertainty among key Democrats on what will actually be in the legislation that moves through Congress have emboldened Republican critics.

[. . .]
The CBO also threw cold water on a promise by a coalition of healthcare industry groups to reduce healthcare spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. Obama announced their promise to much fanfare, but the CBO found that while a few of the cost-cutting measures would save money, others would cost money. In sum, they would not have a big impact on federal spending, the CBO concluded.

Marc Ambinder is quite perturbed that CBO put out a cost estimate for healthcare on a bill that isn’t going to be the “real” bill and is, in any case, incomplete because it neglects key elements of the plan. Now the sneaky Republicans will make use of the figure to, you know, scare people:

Given the ease with which the CBO numbers are digested on Capitol Hill, the GOP now has a significant talking point, one that’s reflected in news coverage already: the President says health care will be revenue-neutral, but the Kennedy plan in the Senate would add at least $1.3 trillion to the deficit…and wouldn’t cover half of the uninsured!   Sure, the bill’s a work in progress, but it could get worse, right?  You can see the ads now: a melifluous voice asking “Can we really afford to spend 1.3 trillion dollars?”

The reason we don’t have the “real” bill is the White House won’t put its cards on the table. What does it want and how much will it cost? All we get are platitudes because once people find out the actual costs and what we are likely to get in return, they will realize we don’t have a trillion or more to spend on something that doesn’t even represent that much progress on the problem of the uninsured.

It might be irksome to the president and his spinners in the media, but as information comes out in bits and pieces and as the public becomes more educated on this topic, support for this monstrosity may decline. And when we learn, as James Capretta points out, that we are taking a chain saw and not a scalpel to Medicare to cut hundreds of billions in “indiscriminate, across-the-board price controls that do nothing to change the underlying cost structure of health-care,” people might get the idea, correctly so, that the end result will be worse care, and less of it.

Whenever information comes out about the designs of healthcare, the president and his media handmaidens say the critics are trying to “scare” people. Yes, the most transparent administration in history objects strenuously to the public getting hold of any dollar figures and specifics which might undermine support for a yet-to-be determined but sure-to-be-hugely-expensive plan. Given that, you understand why the White House would rather co-opt a TV news network than tell us the specifics of its plan.


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