ObamaCare Goes Off Track – by Jacob Laksin


It’s a sign of how desperate the Democratic base is to see some version of ObamaCare enacted before the end of year that one of the chief hurdles in their path, Senator Joe Lieberman, is being castigated as a mass murderer for his failure to toe the Left’s line.

Liberal pundit Ezra Klein, writing this Monday at the Washington Post, charged that Lieberman “seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people” because of his failure to support a Senate version of the health care bill that would expand Medicare for those between the age of 55 and 64. Knives were also out for the senator at the Daily Kos, which called for the “creaking-voiced monster” to be stripped of his committee chairmanship, and at the Huffington Post, which pressed Democrats to treat their former colleague as a “persona non grata.” Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, giving voice to the more disgruntled bloggers, even suggested that Lieberman should be recalled for his opposition to the health care bill. Plainly, the senator has touched a nerve.

Yet Lieberman’s opposition to allowing the non-elderly to “buy-in” to Medicare is well-founded. In substance, the proposal to expand the country’s largest government program seems like little more than a stealth attempt to pass a government-run public insurance option that the liberal base wants and that Democrats have failed to pass.

It also suffers from the usual flaws of massive government programs. The well-respected Mayo Clinic has opposed the buy-in plan on the grounds that it would be “unsustainable,” expanding the price controls of the Medicare program without reducing the long-term costs that afflict it. “Expanding this system to persons 55 to 64 years old would ultimately hurt patients by accelerating the financial ruin of hospitals and doctors across the country,” the Mayo Clinic has noted.

That’s not the only problem with the Medicare expansion. Andrew Rettenmaier and Thomas Saving of the National Center for Policy Analysis have pointed out that expanding Medicare would have a number of unintended consequences, not least inducing aging baby boomers to exit the labor market sooner than they otherwise would. As for the extravagant claim that opposing Medicare expansion means causing deaths, studies show that Medicare has no clear impact on elderly mortality rates.

Still, it is political calculation, not conceptual failure, that explains why Democrats abandoned the Medicare buy-in plan this week: Absent Lieberman’s vote, they don’t have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the health care bill.

That doesn’t mean, however, that ObamaCare is dead and buried. Democrats are still bent on passing the legislation, even if their end-of-year deadline now seems too ambitious by half. Moreover, even shorn of the public option and the Medicare expansion, the health bill remains deeply troubling – not least because resisters like Lieberman and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson may yet join forces with Democrats to ensure its passage.

First and foremost, there is the matter of costs. In a statement on the pending legislation, President Obama insisted yesterday that the potential price tag of health care reform, and its impact on the federal deficit, has been overstated by critics. Citing the Congressional Budget Office, the president said that in “terms of deficits” the health care bill would be a “deficit reduction – not a deficit increase.”

Unfortunately for this defense, the CBO is an imperfect ally for the administration. For one thing, the CBO’s initial cost estimates found that health care would require nearly $1 trillion in new federal spending over the next ten years – not exactly a prescription for trimming the deficit. Indeed, even Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has acknowledged that in the short term health care will increase costs. “We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans. Of course, that’s going to up the level of health-care spending. You can’t do that and not spend more,” Romer has said.

Nor is it quite true that ObamaCare will cut spending over time. Instead, according to Romer, the legislation could slow the runaway growth of Medicare and Medicaid by 2019 – largely by reducing payments to Medicare providers, a solution with problems with of its own. In the best-case scenario, government spending on health care would increase at a marginally lower rate. As Romer has put it, there could be “a dramatic impact on where we are relative to where we might otherwise have been.” Whether or not that turns out to be the case, pitching the health care bill as a “deficit reduction” seems a particularly dubious form of government accounting.

Fuzzy math aside, the administration’s estimates don’t factor in the hidden costs of health care legislation. The Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon notes that the official estimates are “incomplete” because they don’t include the cost of the mandates that health care legislation would impose on state governments and the private sector. A version of the Senate bill supported by Harry Reid, for instance, would force state governments to spend an additional $25 billion on Medicaid over the next 10 years. Add to that the costs of mandates that require individuals and employers to buy health insurance – in effect, a tax on the uninsured that could total $8 billion – and the cost of ObamaCare soars even higher.

It’s no wonder that health care reform has become a dirty phrase. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 51 percent now oppose Congress and the Obama administration’s proposed changes to the health care system, with majorities saying that the increased costs would not be worth it. A recent CNN poll found that 61 percent of Americans now oppose the Senate version of ObamaCare. Alongside the defeat of left-wing favorites like the public option, and the growing dissent of critical votes like Lieberman, the political picture for Democrats would appear grim.

If Democrats don’t seem deflated, it may be because the passage of the health care bill – in any form and with whatever support – would still constitute a victory for the Left and its vision of expanded government control over health care. Liberal blogger Nate Silver writes that the enactment of a health care bill, even without a public option, would be a “huge achievement for progressives.” Democrats have echoed that claim. Iowa’s Tom Harkin beamed this week that the passage of the health care bill would be a “giant step forward” because it would change “the paradigm of health care in America.”

Democrats may not get everything they want in the health care bill. But they may get enough to transform American health care for years to come. And even Joe Lieberman, mass murderer and all, may not be powerful enough to stop them.

  • jdelaney3

    We've indeed reached the proverbial tipping point, and only the November 2010 elections can possibly prevent disaster. Frankly, the elections can't come soon enough. By then, I just hope and pray that the GOP revitalizes its conservative soul by adopting a bold conservative agenda, that it finds a solid spokesperson, and that it aggressively and uncompromisingly begins the process of REPEALING whatever monstrous form of Obamacare, et. al. Progressive legislation, which eventually rears its ugly head in the weeks and months ahead. The menacing Progressives, aka Marxists, and their minions must be stopped–COLD! No more pussyfooting. No more self-destructive accommodation with a “loyal opposition” which won't be satisfied with anything less than the “fundamental transformation of the United States of America”. Americans couldn't have a more clearly defined enemy within than the modern day Democratic Party machine. Shamelessly self-serving thugs! Has the GOP itself lurched so far to the left that it is incapable of saving the country from the Progressive tyranny? Well, I guess we'll see soon enough.

  • USMCSniper

    Yaron Brook Understands:

    President Obama’s push for universal health care rests on the premise that people have a right to medical care and medical insurance. This notion of some sort of entitlement to health care is a distortion of the concept of a ‘right’ and is ultimately what’s behind all of the problems with today’s medical system.

    All legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. The American rights [to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness] impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone. The system guarantees you the chance to work for what you want–not to be given it without effort by somebody else. . . . Under the American system you have a right to health care if you can pay for it, i.e., if you can earn it by your own action and effort. But nobody has the right to the services of any professional individual or group simply because he wants them and desperately needs them. The very fact that he needs these services so desperately is the proof that he had better respect the freedom, the integrity, and the rights of the people who provide them.”

  • http://www.uncorkedventures.com wine clubs

    It's too bad that we have so many attacks coming from both sides of the aisle. At this point, as a moderate I can't say that I like either option very much. Living in San Diego I can tell you that doing nothing for the system isn't an option, but having a universal payer system as a result doesn't make much sense either in this country. I can understand providing a basic level of care for children(which we once did here in California) simply because the expense for that is less then caring for them once they become critically ill-but I wonder what the correct answer is for adults. At this point I've heard more bickering then a realistic discussion of the issues involved, which is unfortunate.

  • jdelaney3


    When one party chooses to shape healthcare policy behind closed doors and to the absolute exclusion of the other party, that “realistic discussion” about which you reasonably speak is utterly impossible–which is precisely why the Progressives are proceeding behind closed doors. They don't want “we the people” to know the contents of those monstrous healthcare proposals. The GOP healthcare proposal, readily available online, is a sensible, common sense free market based solution to high healthcare costs and has been completely ignored by both the Democratic leadership and their main stream media co-conspirators. Unfortunately, this is the way it is. Not pretty at all.

  • johncarens

    C'mon people, get with the program here-!

    With all due respect to Jacob Laksin, those of us on the right need to get something straight, and real fast; The Stalinst left in the United States Congress and in the White House don't give a damn about health care for Americans, and never have. The bulldozer they are attempting to ram through traditional America and its institutions is not about health care; it is about fundamentally altering the relationship between The People and the government, and no amount of logic, persuasion, narrative, or emotional pleading will dissuade these evil, power-mad monsters from their goal.

    We have to stop debating with the numbers, and the charts, and the logic. The radical, neo-Marxist Left can see the finish line of their ultimate dream of shredding the Constitution, and they won't be thrown off course by such puffery. As H.L. Mencken would have said, we are now in a Carnival of Bunkum.

    First of all, we have to stop calling it “Health Care Reform”, and call it what it is: A stinking pile of Tyranny. King George III is spinning in his grave to think that the descendants of Washington would entertain the thought of such an audacious, naked, mugging of American freedom. Republican leaders need to shout from the mountaintops about the nightmarish horrors awaiting them if they let these tin-horn dictators in the Democrat party rape the Body Politic. Stop with the logic! Bring up the horrors! Such as…

    Moms having babies in the hospital hallways, or forced to abort when the pregnancy seems “unhealthy”, automobile accident victims left to die because they have no proof of insurance, smokers forced to quit or left to die, fat people forced-fed diet drinks. Families forced to move to cities so that they don't have to drive to work, and risk automobile accidents. Fast food restaurants forced to close because the sell “unhealthy” food, Ho-Ho's and Twinkies banned from the few supermarkets allowed to stay open. Rural clinics closed, urban hospitals consolidated. Coffee outlawed because of its causal link to hypertension. Christmas Trees outlawed because they cause fires, and the Government can't be expected to cover hospitalization because of stupid accidents. Doctors forced to move where the government tells them to go, and practice the medicine the government dictates. People fired from jobs because so many of the mandates apply to companies with 20 employees, so the 21st and 22nd employees are let go. Alcohol banned, because it causes so many debilitating diseases and violent accidents. Fields of study chosen in colleges so students are forced to take courses in occupations the government deems “healthy”. No new miracle drugs, and the elimination of whole classes of drugs deemed “untested”. The armed forces severely reduced or eliminated because far too many people are injured, and the government can't afford the rehabilitation. Old and sick and handicapped people euthanized, babies forcibly aborted for a “1-child only policy”. Home gardens outlawed because of “food safety” issues. Beef and Pork outlawed for the same reason. Hundreds of thousands of people thrown out of work because they work for a bankrupted insurance company, or even a local insurance agency. And on, and on, and on.

    Tell the horror stories– unrelentingly! Throw up the straw-men, just like the Stalinst Left does. Define THEM. Make THEM disprove it. Stop with the brain stuff! Go for the heart!

  • jdelaney3

    Exactly right, johncarens! Tragic, but painfully true.

    We're in dangerous uncharted waters, our ship is listing badly, we can't (or won't) plug the holes, and we have 3 more years of trying to tread water and avoid sinking altogether.

    Though Nov 2010 may allow us a moment to catch our breath, unless the GOP gets its act together–and I have my doubts it can–I'm afraid we won't be able to weather the raging storms before us.

    So, from my perspective, only divine intervention or a powerful and overwhelming grassroots movement can save the Republic now. A plague of foxes are in the hen house and are slowly killing us with virtual impunity from within.

    Though I am a man of a hopeful nature, frankly I've never before been so pessimistic. Doing what I can–Tea Parties, blogging, editorials, calling congressional “reps”, engaged in the local political machine, etc. Am at a loss what else I can possibly do to “refound” our country. Dispirited, yes, but will never be willing to yield.

    Keep up the fight.