Saturday, August 15, 2009

Analyzing the President's Pitch

I haven't had much to write about the "healthy debate" that's currently going on regarding the President's cornerstone issue of his Presidency: Health Care. Now, those of you who've spent more than about two seconds with me in person know that I can't stop talking about it, and that (as with most things), my opinion runs deep. (I figure my silence on this blog is due to me heeding my mothers' advice: "if you can't say something good, don't say anything at all".)

On August 11, the President suggested that our disagreement about health care should [be]
... over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.
In an effort to be fair, and focus on what the President's actually proposed (forgetting for a moment, the discrepancy between what he claims he's proposed and the actual legislation that exists), I want to draw your attention to a blog post by Keith Hennessey, former economic advisor to President George W. Bush. Keith has expertly taken the claims that the President made in his "Sales Pitch" for Health Care in Portsmouth, NH, and dissected them, providing a clear contrast between reality and the fantasy land enjoyed by Barack Obama. Check out the post here.

For those wanting a summary, here are a few key points:

1. The President overpromises that everyone can keep their health plan.
According to [Congressional Budget Office] CBO, the President’s statement is incorrect for a portion of these 6 million people who as a result of the House bill would lose employment-based coverage they would otherwise have under current law.

6. The House bill would increase short-term, 10th year, and long-term budget deficits
  • CBO says the House bill would increase federal deficits by $239 B over the next ten years.
  • CBO says the House bill would increase the deficit in 2019 by $65 B, meaning the bill fails the President’s “10th year test.”
  • CBO says the House bill would result in increasing deficits beyond 2019, because the new spending would grow faster than 8% per year, while the offsets would grow only about 5% per year.
  • The House bill would not just slow Medicare growth, but would also raise taxes on high-income individuals and small business owners.

7. AARP opposes the bill
After the town hall, AARP issued a statement including the following sentence:
AARP: While the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.

9. Medicare is not a good example of government-run health care because Medicare is fiscally unsustainable
...Medicare is fiscally unsustainable. The President already said that earlier in the discussion. So Medicare is not a successful model for a new system, because we can’t afford it.

12. The pending bills would move more cost-benefit decisions from insurers to people chosen by the government
...Someone must have authority to decide whether additional care is “worth it.” That person must control the dollars. Ultimately, the health policy debate comes down to the question: Who should make the cost/benefit decision? The pending legislation would move some of those decisions from insurers to the government.

13. Guaranteed renewal and guaranteed issue
[I strongly recommend checking this one out. So much so that I'm putting a link to this specific item.]
Guaranteed issue + community rating + individual mandate = hidden income/wealth redistribution from the generally healthy to the generally sick.

17. The President trashes the U.S. Postal Service and undermines the case that government can run a complex health system.
He undermined the case for more government control, and especially for a public option, by pointing out that the government cannot deliver the mail and stay on budget.

20. There are 46 million people who are technically uninsured, but the target population is probably one-third to one-half that size.
Of those 45.7 million (uninsured) people:
  • 6.4 million are enrolled in Medicaid or S-CHIP and just gave the Census taker the wrong answer. I’m serious. This is called the Medicaid undercount.
  • Another 4.3 million are eligible for Medicaid or S-CHIP and have not enrolled. If they need care, the hospital or clinic generally enrolls them. They are protected against risk even though they don’t show up on the rolls as insured.
  • Another 9.3 million are non-citizens. Different people come to different conclusions about what portion of this group should receive taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.
  • Another 10.1 million have income more than three times the poverty line.
  • Leaving about 15.6 million remaining uninsured, of whom about 5 million are childless adults.