"Read the bill!” is my favorite of the chants that have erupted during the current health care debate, mostly because it’s one of the few chants with substance behind it. Why wouldn’t the members of Congress read a bill that will shape health care in our nation for generations? That’s a good question. But as the health care debate grew more toxic and the nation more polarized, I started to ask myself a different question, one focused not on the Congressional members but rather on the bill’s protestors: Have any of them actually read the legislation that they so despise?
So I started reading the bill, H.R. 3200 or America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 – all 1,018 pages of it. First of all, there are no death panels. Trust me: I’m saying this as a Republican who would love for this legislation to take a more moderate turn, but infecting the debate with hyperbole and intellectual dishonesty is not my preferred means of achieving that goal.
It’s also an unnecessary and extreme tactic. Doug Elmendorf, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in the course of his testimony before Congress made it clear that the reform measures included in the current health care legislation won’t reduce the rising cost of health care. According to Elmendorf, the legislation will not counterbalance the rise in federal health costs caused by its insurance coverage proposals; in fact, our deficit will dramatically increase along with the rising costs of health care. A CBO report issued on July 26th estimated a cost of $1.042 trillion for the proposals with possible revenues bringing that figure down to $239 billion, but these estimates are the projected costs only for the period between 2010 and 2019 and “do not represent a complete cost estimate for the legislation.”
The bill is inefficient and ineffective. The irresponsible Democrats in both Congress and the White House continue to ratchet their rhetoric of urgency despite those damning revelations. Even the Obama administration’s official statements demonstrate their arrogance: As Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel put it, we mustn’t let “a good crisis to go to waste.” To that end, Democrats wanted to push health care reform through before the August recess, robbing constituents of their ability to voice their opposition effectively.
Clearly the prevailing legislative philosophy of the Obama Administration is to support initiatives and then push them through with alarming speed before they can be vetted by the opposition. The American Reinvestment Act and the atrocious Cap-and-Trade legislation are clear examples of that philosophy at work. Luckily, the third time wasn’t the charm for the Obama Administration.
Despite my condemnation, I admit that the content of the legislation doesn’t mirror a “Socialist Manifesto” as many Americans seem to believe. In fact, there are some aspects worthy of applause from both sides of the aisle.
For one, the bill disallows the insurance companies’ exclusion of customers based on pre-existing medical conditions, a practice that keeps health care access out of the hands of those who need it most. The states also seem to be able to form their own health care initiatives under the umbrella of the public option sponsored by the federal government — at least the states would have some involvement in the process. Also, according to a CBO estimate, the number of employers who would stop providing health care insurance for their employees and only point them toward the public option is very low.
But for the most part, this bill is far from a shining example of democracy. It is still a massive government intervention into a public sector. The Democrats have two typical justifications for this intervention.
First, they point to the fact that we already have government health insurance (Medicare) without examining its current unsustainablity and its ballooning role in our deficit. Medicare is a program on the verge of bankruptcy. In essence, the Democrats are proposing that we solve our problems by enlarging them and by expanding government intervention in ways that will not offset the growing cost of health care.
Second, the Democrats utilize the “politics of fear” that they so despised during the Bush Administration — or as President Obama prefers to call it, the “fierce urgency of now;” if we don’t take care of health care immediately, before the end of the year, then we will have forever missed our opportunity to fix the system. Representative Brian Bilbray of the Oversight and Reform Committee dismisses that claim — these policies won’t be fully implemented until 2013, so why the rush to finish the legislation before the August recess?
My opposition to this legislation should not be construed as proof of ignorance of the need for health care reform. I am not part of that nebulous group of people President Obama refers to as “those who would do nothing,” nor am I someone who has no compassion for the uninsured citizens in this country. I want health care reform, but I will not burden the next generation with an unconscionable debt for a dysfunctional system. That doesn’t make me un-American (as Nancy Pelosi believes) or a “hatemonger” (as Harry Reid believes); it means that I’m a part of the loyal opposition — an opposition that favors fiscal responsibility and understands the obligation we have to give future-generation Americans a country that’s better, and healthier, than the one we were given.