Commentary Magazine


Liberals Wake Up: ObamaCare Stinks

Bob Herbert has discovered an unpleasant fact about the Senate’s “historic” health-care legislation:

There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care. The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care. . . In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.

How could Democrats come up with such a scheme? Well, as Herbert points out, the idea is that those “Cadillac” plans will get slashed and changed, thereby avoiding the excise tax. But alas, “it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.” And if the the “Cadillac” plans become Kia plans after they’ve been cut down to size, what happens to the planned $150B in revenue the excise tax was supposed to generate? It gets fuzzy at that point. Herbert suggests that most of that revenue was supposed to come ”from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans. Can you believe it?” In a word, no.

But once again we see that the wonders of ObamaCare seem not so wonderful to liberals. They don’t like the idea of consumers being forced to buy health-insurance policies from big, bad insurance companies. They don’t like the idea of smacking middle-class employees who managed to obtain generous health-care plans from their employers. And you don’t hear too many of them cheering for the massive cuts in Medicare. (Liberals always told us our society was to be judged by how generously we treat the old and sick.)  So why did all those Democrats vote for this thing? Ah, it was historic!

Only rare pieces of legislation attract opponents as diverse as does ObamaCare. But this is what comes from passing something, anything, in a mad holiday rush with the purpose of delivering a political “win” for the White House and avoiding a humiliating failure for the Democratic congressional leadership. But as the Left and Right discover what’s in that legislation, there may in fact be a broad consensus building over the need to just start over. There has got to be something that makes more sense than this.