Healthcare

A health plan to please liberals and conservatives

This piece is also published in The Washington Times.


Last week I described the political riddle of a national health care proposal called the Healthy Americans Act (HAA), which mandates universal health care insurance for all Americans, pleasing liberals; which empowers individual choices and private market competition, which pleases conservatives; and which fundamentally restructures our health care system substantially to reduce costs, which pleases liberals and conservatives.

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Liberal Dems now control the fate of health reform

The public option is back on the table; an amendment is being offered in the Senate Finance Committee next week. Though the amendment's sponsor, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), acknowledged it will go down in defeat, proponents want a public recording of support and opposition.
 
Over on the House side, notice that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) comments on a government health program have become stronger, not weaker, since the president himself backed off the necessity of the public plan in a final healthcare bill when speaking to a joint session of Congress. When asked this week about whether a public option with a trigger would garner more support from the center and right of her caucus, Pelosi said a trigger "is an excuse for not doing anything."

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Obama’s health insurance tax: Coming soon to all policies

By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

The Baucus healthcare bill provides for a tax on “gold-plated” health insurance policies. But, as with the Alternative Minimum Tax, once slated to be imposed only on the wealthy, inflation will make most Americans liable to pay the 40 percent tax in a few years.

The tax applies to all individual policies with premiums above $8,750 and families of four whose premiums exceed $23,000. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the average health insurance premium for families of four will reach $25,000 by 2018. The average premium should pass the thresholds in Baucus’s bill by 2016.

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The president and climate change

President Barack Obama strode confidently to the well of the General Assembly of the United Nations today to continue a familiar refrain he’s made with the leaders of the world regarding climate change. The president believes U.S. leadership on this issue is one small plank in the bridge he needs to rebuild in order to restore America’s dignity and rightful role in the world. I admire his tenacity and leadership on this foreign policy stage. After all, polls show Americans favorability for the president on foreign policy issues is higher than their views on his domestic policy agenda.

To me, the reason is simple — Obama does his own dirty work on the world stage and personally engages those issues. When it comes to his domestic agenda, like healthcare, he unwisely leaves the details to the stray cats mewing in Congress.

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One health plan is popular

This piece is also published in The Washington Times.

I don't get it. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column offering advice to Democrats and the White House, saying that they could achieve a broad bipartisan consensus on health care by supporting S. 334, the Healthy Americans Act (HAA), introduced last year by liberal Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and conservative Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.

Then last week, Sen. Max Baucus, after months of working with the bipartisan "gang of six" Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced a bill that did not attract a single Republican, and more than a few Democratic dissenters.

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Baucus bill may yet hit the spot

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has labored month after month to keep Republicans at the negotiating table on healthcare — only to produce a bill without any GOP support. Any ... not even Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

People keep asking why Baucus would have hung in this long unless he wanted a bill Republicans could vote for. Baucus said he is hopeful the Republicans will keep talking to Democrats and come on board after the Senate Finance Committee produces a marked-up and undoubtedly different bill, and while it's possible, it certainly isn't likely.

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Not all dollars are spent equally

The stakes riding on Congress passing healthcare reform could not be higher. It’s not just the millions of uninsured who are waiting in the balance, but also the well-being our broader healthcare system and economy. This week The New Republic reported that the Chinese are paying particularly close attention to the healthcare debate in Congress:

Over the last few years, as China has become the world's largest purchaser of Treasury bonds, the government has grown increasingly sophisticated in its understanding of U.S. budget deficits. The issue has become all the more pressing in recent months, as the financial crisis and recession pushed the deficit to record levels. With nearly half of their $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves invested in U.S. bonds alone, the Chinese are understandably concerned about our creditworthiness. And this concern has brought them ineluctably to the issue of healthcare. "At some point, if you refuse to contain healthcare costs, you'll go bankrupt," says Andy Xie, a prominent Shanghai-based economist, formerly of Morgan Stanley.

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The trouble with the Baucus plan

On its face, the plan offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) seems fairly reasonable. Compared to the other Democratic plans, it is fiscally responsible. It takes it relatively easy on employers. It doesn’t have a public option. It is not a single-player plan.

It has some political vulnerabilities, of course. Labor unions will hate it because it taxes their healthcare plans. The individual mandate is not going to be very popular, especially among younger voters. It has some unspecified Medicare cuts that will anger seniors. But, all in all, this could be a good Democratic half of a compromise.

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The distraction

I see now why the House went through with its rebuke of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). It was trying to distract the country from the healthcare disaster that is embroiling the Senate.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been given an impossible job: to come up with a healthcare bill that will get enough vote to pass his committee.

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Beware the public option trap

By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

As any good Persian rug dealer knows, you have to hold back a bargaining chit so that you can whip it out at the very end to tie down the sale. That’s how Obama is playing the so-called public option in his healthcare program. His plan seems to be to combine its abandonment with some form of tort reform and try to buy off some Republicans — maybe only Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe — to give moderate Democrats enough confidence in the veneer of bipartisanship to win their backing for his bill.

But it’s a fraud and a trick.

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