Commentary Magazine


Topic: insurance reform

Numbers

Steny Hoyer notwithstanding, CBO didn’t actually, finally score the bill. CBO says it “completed a preliminary estimate.” Hoyer, of course, would like to lock down wavering Democrats, but CBO cautions: “Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” Well, if we aren’t exactly going to vote on the bill, then I guess we don’t exactly need a firm CBO estimate.

But there are some numbers that should alarm the fence-sitters. Rasmussen tells us: “Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. voters say they are less likely to vote for their representative in Congress this November if he or she votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. … 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party are less likely to support someone who votes for the legislation. Just 32% of unaffiliateds are more likely to vote for someone who supports the bill.”

So you can see why Hoyer is so desperate to grab on to a CBO number, anything, to divert members away from political realities and their own nagging sense that this is all a Ponzi scheme. And if you think there’s any doubt about that, consider this exchange between Obama and Bret Baier, where it becomes obvious what a fiscal flimflam is going on here:

BAIER: The CBO has said specifically that the $500 billion that you say that you’re going to save from Medicare is not being spent in Medicare. That this bill spends it elsewhere outside of Medicare. So you can’t have both.

OBAMA: Right.

BAIER: You either spend it on expenditures or you make Medicare more solvent. So which is it?

OBAMA: Here’s what it does. On the one hand what you’re doing is you’re eliminating insurance subsidies within Medicare that aren’t making anybody healthier but are fattening the profits of insurance companies. Everybody agrees that that is not a wise way to spend money. Now, most of those savings go right back into helping seniors, for example, closing the donut hole.

When the previous Congress passed the prescription drug bill, what they did was they left a situation which after seniors had spent a certain amount of money, suddenly they got no help and they were stuck with the bill. Now that’s a pretty expensive proposition fixing that. It wasn’t paid for at the time that that bill was passed. So that money goes back into Medicare, both to fix the donut hole, lower premiums.

All those things are important, but what’s also happening is each year we’re spending less on Medicare overall and as consequence, that lengthens the trust fund and it’s availability for seniors.

BAIER: Your chief actuary for Medicare said this, that cuts in Medicare: “cannot be simultaneously used to finance other federal outlays and extend the trust fund.” That’s your guy.

OBAMA: No — and what is absolutely true is that this will not solve our whole Medicare problem. We’re still going to have to fix Medicare over the long term.

BAIER: But it’s $38 trillion in the hole.

OBAMA: Absolutely, and that’s the reason that we’re going to have to — that’s the reason I put forward a fiscal commission based on Republicans and Democratic proposals, to make sure that we have a long-term fix for the system. The key is that this proposal doesn’t weaken Medicare, it makes it stronger for seniors currently who are receiving it. It doesn’t solve that big structural problem, Bret. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades. What it does do is make sure that the trust fund is not going to be going bankrupt in seven years, according to their accounting rules —

BAIER: So you don’t buy —

OBAMA: — and in the meantime —

BAIER: — the CBO or the actuary that you can’t have it both ways?

OBAMA: No —

BAIER: That you can’t spend the money twice?

OBAMA: — no, what is absolutely true and what I do agree with is that you can’t say that you are saving on Medicare and then spend the money twice. What you can say is that we are going to take these savings, put them back to make sure that seniors are getting help on the prescription drug bill instead of that money going to, for example, insurance reform, and —

It’s embarrassing, really. And it’s a reminder of why it’s really hard to get members to vote for something that not even the president can adequately justify as fiscally honest.

Steny Hoyer notwithstanding, CBO didn’t actually, finally score the bill. CBO says it “completed a preliminary estimate.” Hoyer, of course, would like to lock down wavering Democrats, but CBO cautions: “Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” Well, if we aren’t exactly going to vote on the bill, then I guess we don’t exactly need a firm CBO estimate.

But there are some numbers that should alarm the fence-sitters. Rasmussen tells us: “Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. voters say they are less likely to vote for their representative in Congress this November if he or she votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. … 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party are less likely to support someone who votes for the legislation. Just 32% of unaffiliateds are more likely to vote for someone who supports the bill.”

So you can see why Hoyer is so desperate to grab on to a CBO number, anything, to divert members away from political realities and their own nagging sense that this is all a Ponzi scheme. And if you think there’s any doubt about that, consider this exchange between Obama and Bret Baier, where it becomes obvious what a fiscal flimflam is going on here:

BAIER: The CBO has said specifically that the $500 billion that you say that you’re going to save from Medicare is not being spent in Medicare. That this bill spends it elsewhere outside of Medicare. So you can’t have both.

OBAMA: Right.

BAIER: You either spend it on expenditures or you make Medicare more solvent. So which is it?

OBAMA: Here’s what it does. On the one hand what you’re doing is you’re eliminating insurance subsidies within Medicare that aren’t making anybody healthier but are fattening the profits of insurance companies. Everybody agrees that that is not a wise way to spend money. Now, most of those savings go right back into helping seniors, for example, closing the donut hole.

When the previous Congress passed the prescription drug bill, what they did was they left a situation which after seniors had spent a certain amount of money, suddenly they got no help and they were stuck with the bill. Now that’s a pretty expensive proposition fixing that. It wasn’t paid for at the time that that bill was passed. So that money goes back into Medicare, both to fix the donut hole, lower premiums.

All those things are important, but what’s also happening is each year we’re spending less on Medicare overall and as consequence, that lengthens the trust fund and it’s availability for seniors.

BAIER: Your chief actuary for Medicare said this, that cuts in Medicare: “cannot be simultaneously used to finance other federal outlays and extend the trust fund.” That’s your guy.

OBAMA: No — and what is absolutely true is that this will not solve our whole Medicare problem. We’re still going to have to fix Medicare over the long term.

BAIER: But it’s $38 trillion in the hole.

OBAMA: Absolutely, and that’s the reason that we’re going to have to — that’s the reason I put forward a fiscal commission based on Republicans and Democratic proposals, to make sure that we have a long-term fix for the system. The key is that this proposal doesn’t weaken Medicare, it makes it stronger for seniors currently who are receiving it. It doesn’t solve that big structural problem, Bret. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades. What it does do is make sure that the trust fund is not going to be going bankrupt in seven years, according to their accounting rules —

BAIER: So you don’t buy —

OBAMA: — and in the meantime —

BAIER: — the CBO or the actuary that you can’t have it both ways?

OBAMA: No —

BAIER: That you can’t spend the money twice?

OBAMA: — no, what is absolutely true and what I do agree with is that you can’t say that you are saving on Medicare and then spend the money twice. What you can say is that we are going to take these savings, put them back to make sure that seniors are getting help on the prescription drug bill instead of that money going to, for example, insurance reform, and —

It’s embarrassing, really. And it’s a reminder of why it’s really hard to get members to vote for something that not even the president can adequately justify as fiscally honest.

Read Less

Could Democrats Save Themselves?

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

Read Less

Re: Why There Are Primaries

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

Read Less




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