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For Healthy State of Affairs

Healthy State of Affairs
The president’s new health care plan will cost more money and ultimately cost more jobs argue Republicans. It’s the worst kind

of news during an economic recession. For example, the White House proposal imposes stiffer penalties on employers. Businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or pay $2,000 per person - an increase from the initial fine of $750 in the Senate bill. The new plan also taxes high-end health plans, increases the Medicare payroll tax and includes tax increases on virtually every American. This plan doesn’t lower the cost of health insurance. It just increases the size of government and hurts small businesses along the way.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows 61 percent of voters nationwide want Congress to drop the health care plan and focus on the economy and jobs.

Obama claims he wants the government to provide health insurance because he says America needs competition from a nonprofit operation. Curiously, he never once mentioned that, in most states, the largest insurance company is actually a nonprofit, such as BlueCross BlueShield Association. The president repeatedly portrays the industry as in the grip of a few greedy for-profit insurance companies when that is simply not true. The mudslinging is politics at its worst. The sad reality is that there is no way he could sell his government plan unless he painted such a distorted picture.

According to the president, “we aren’t any healthier” on account of the amount of money we spend on health care. This notion is a diversion from the serious issues at hand. Americans do a lot of things that adversely affect their health. Health care can’t stop people from eating too much, for example. But if someone gets heart disease or cancer, this is a pretty good place to live. For disease after disease, American survival rates after getting sick are the envy of the rest of the world. The five-year age-adjusted survival rate for breast cancer for women in the United States is 83 percent. In England, it is 67 percent. In Germany, it is 72 percent. But one thing is for sure: All these new rules will change the insurance plans Americans currently have. There is no way to simultaneously let people keep existing insurance plans while upgrading them substantially without raising premiums. 

Obama claims he wants the government to provide health insurance because he says America needs competition from a nonprofit operation.

Obama’s congressional lecture claimed that his health care program could be funded simply by eliminating “waste and fraud,” that people would get a lot more benefits than they currently do for less money, that the uninsured will be covered, and that “the plan will not add to our deficit.” What the president is advocating is impossible. Making up “facts” won’t make Obama’s promises come true.

Reform is essential for Americans who have no health insurance. But it is just as crucial to the millions more who are just one layoff away from losing their coverage and many millions more who watch with fear as the cost of care and their insurance premiums rise relentlessly.

The most basic facts to keep in mind are that Obama’s plan, which builds on a sound bill already passed by the Senate, would provide coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people while reducing future deficits and beginning to rein in medical costs. Obama’s plan also adds important new features that should make it more attractive to House Democrats and to the general public.

His boldest new idea is to give the federal government powers, in conjunction with state insurance regulators, to reject excessive premium increases. Anyone who read in horror, as we did last week, about rate increases of up to 39 percent for some California clients of Anthem Blue Cross should find that idea a particular relief.

For low- and moderate-income people worried that they will be forced to buy insurance they can’t afford, a proposal of his would beef up tax subsidies to help them buy policies and make the penalties for ignoring the mandate somewhat less onerous.

The president’s proposals are far from perfect. We wish he had included a public plan. And we regret that he accepted the Senate’s decision not to require employers to provide insurance. He would boost the payments required of employers whose workers end up needing public subsidies to help them buy their own coverage.

In all, the administration estimates the cost of Obama’s proposals — $950 billion over 10 years — would be more than offset by new revenues and would reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade and by about $1 trillion in the decade after that.

- [ By Lavanya Garikina ]