Health Commissioner Would Answer Only to Obama, Otherwise Unchecked

Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) hung a $1.5 trillion dollar price tag on the Democrat health care bill. The CBO’s job is to provide “nonpartisan and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget.”

The CBO is part of the legislative branch of government, independent by design, which allows for honesty in assessing the cost to the American taxpayer of any proposed legislation. They are not in any way supervised, directed or accountable to the White House.

Enter Chicago-style politics. In the wake of the independent partial scoring of what little the Democrats would let them see, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was called to the White House Monday for a trip to the woodshed.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) was not very happy at all with White House interference with the ability of Congress to rely on information received from this independent entity.

“This reeks of the type of Chicago-style politics that Americans were warned about,” Price said. “With the CBO blasting his health care plan for adding to runaway deficits, the President’s closed-door gathering is suspect and highly inappropriate. The White House has no business engaging in secret meetings with the CBO. It serves as an independent scorekeeper in the health care debate, not a political tool to be handled by the President.”

Price is demanding transparency from the White House on this unethical meeting.

“While the President has demonstrated there is nothing he believes he cannot take over, we will not allow the work of the Congressional Budget Office to be commandeered by the White House,” Price said. “As health care reform requires an honest appraisal of its budget impact, I call on the White House to release all details of this unprecedented meeting.”

In an interview with HUMAN EVENTS yesterday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, was none too happy with the private summons either.

“I find it highly inappropriate at this time for the Congressional Budget Office director to be in a private meeting at the White House,” Camp said. “Separation of powers. I don’t know what they might have said to him, but I’d certainly like to know.”

“What he said [before Camp’s committee] was [Democrats] don’t lower costs on health care — they raise costs on health care,” Camp continued. “They don’t lower the deficit, they actually increase the deficit. They don’t help with the long term structure of the health care commitments of this country, they make them worse. Those kinds of parameters that he laid out are one of the reasons that the current bill is in trouble.”

Camp had just approved the final version of the House Ways & Means report that contains the minority’s dissenting views on the Democrat healthcare bill, HR 3200, passed through the committee. Camp shared the report with HUMAN EVENTS. It will be signed by every Republican member of the committee.

Every time you examine the bill a bit closer, the more frightening it gets. This particular section lays out how the Democrats plan to run private insurance out of business.

From the report:

This starts with the creation of a federally subsidized government-run insurance plan that would pay hospitals and doctors at set Medicare rates for services. As Medicare significantly underpays providers, the government-run plan will force private plans to pick up the slack. As a result, the average cost of private coverage for a family of four would be $3,628 more expensive because of the new and existing cost-shift, according to analysis by Milliman and the Lewin Group. Because it is unlikely that providers will willingly accept the government-run plan’s low reimbursements, the Secretary of HHS would have the authority to force providers to participate in this plan.

The government-run plan will not have to pay state or federal taxes. It would be exempt from complying with state benefit and provider mandates, which have been shown to increase the cost of health insurance. The plan provides a $2 billion interest free loan from taxpayers. Unlike private insurance plans, who can be sued in state courts, the government-run plan could only be sued in federal court. And finally it will have the full backing of the United States government. Regardless of any assurances to the contrary, the government-run insurance plan will be “too big to fail,” almost ensuring that taxpayers will be responsible for any funding shortfalls. This affords the government plan further significant advantage over the plans it is supposed to “compete” against.

To further guarantee that result, all private health plans would be required to conform to benefit mandates, as determined by the federal government. Any employer offering coverage that wasn’t approved by the government would be forced to pay a steep tax penalty. Further, individual market plans would be prohibited from enrolling new members and would be prohibited from updating their benefits or cost-sharing arrangements for those currently enrolled. This prohibition on new enrollment will result in a death spiral where insurance costs for a plan climb at an unsustainable rate for all existing health insurance plans. By guaranteeing adverse selection will occur, the bill will ultimately force these plans to close down completely.

The bill further prohibits any new insurance plan from creating health coverage that does not conform to the federal government’s requirements, and that insurance plan will not be allowed to exist outside of the government established super-structure, referred to in H.R. 3200 as the Exchange. By prohibiting new insurance plans that don’t comply with various new federal requirements, the bill effectively limits choice in the insurance market.

The bill would also authorize a “Health Choices Commissioner” that would be appointed by the President and approved by the Senate to oversee this government run insurance “Exchange.”

More from the final report:

Aside from the will of the President, the Commissioner’s power would be unchecked. This is extremely troubling given the large scope of responsibility given to the Commissioner. In fact, the Commissioner is so powerful that the title is referenced almost 200 times in H.R. 3200. This government official would have:

• The power to decide which treatments patients could receive and at what cost;
• The power to decide which private plans would be allowed to participate in the Exchange;
• The power to regulate all insurance plans, both in and out of the Exchange;
• The power to determine which employers would be allowed to participate in the Exchange;
• The power to determine how many Americans will be allowed to choose health coverage through the Exchange;
• The power to form and control which physicians and hospitals participate in the government-run plan and in private plan provider networks;
• The power to determine which states are allowed to operate their own Exchange and terminate a previously-approved State Exchange at any time;
• The power to override state laws regarding covered health benefits;
• The power to determine how trillions of taxpayer and employer dollars would be spent within the Exchange;
• The power to determine who qualifies for premium assistance; and
• The power to automatically enroll Americans into the Exchange if they don’t have coverage, including potentially forcing these individuals into the government-run plan.

Also troubling is the fact the Secretary of Health and Human Services would decide which prescription drugs are made available in the government plan. Evidence has shown that government officials in other countries have used this power to deny access to needed treatments on the basis of cost.”

You can read the full report here (pdf).

Pelosi Claims Enough Votes to Pass Health Care

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that she has the votes to pass the Democrat health care disaster in the House. If she had the votes to pass the bill, it’d already be on the floor. They want this one badly.

It wasn’t long before some Blue Dog Democrats came out to disagree with their dear leader. Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), who is involved in the negotiations, disagreed with Pelosi’s claims.

“I don’t believe there are the votes on the floor as of right now,” Hill said.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is part of the group trying to pull out the federal funding of abortion.

Stupak told CNN, “It would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to pass this bill.”

Stupak said Democrats would not be able to pass the bill if they lose 40 votes. “[Pelosi] would lose more than 40 on the right to life issue alone,” Stupak said. “There’s just no way.”

[Editor’s Note: Dear Speaker Pelosi: If you have the votes, why hesitate? Or is it, as the great existential philosopher Harry Callahan said, “Go ahead. Make my day.”?]