With the Senate Finance Committee poised to pass health care legislation, the final contours of the bill that could come out of Congress are starting to come into focus. The bill will contain new taxes on the middle class. It will add to the deficit. And it will put government bureaucrats between Americans and their doctors, among other things.
So it’s not too early to ask the obvious question: Will President Obama veto health care reform?
It’s worth asking because so many of the costs to taxpayers the President has repeatedly promised won’t be in the legislation are, and so many of the benefits are not.
What follows is a list, in no particular order, of the contradictions between the President’s promises and the reality of Democratic health care reform. Add them up and it’s hard to see how President Obama doesn’t reject the bill Congress seems likely to send him.
Contradiction #1: From a Promise Not to Raise Taxes on the Middle Class to $2 Billion in “Penalties”
As far back as the campaign, President Obama promised he wouldn’t raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000.
But an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that at least 71 percent of the individual mandate penalties in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s (D-MT) bill would be paid by Americans earning less than $250,000. In fact, the nonpartisan analysis found that, of the $2.8 billion in penalties the bill imposes on those who do not purchase health insurance, a full $2 billion will be paid by taxpayers earning less than $120,000 for a family of four.
The Senate Finance bill also levies $215 billion in new taxes on employers and health insurers for offering high-value insurance benefits, which will surely be passed onto all consumers.
Republicans tried to ensure that President Obama’s words would not ring hollow by offering an amendment that said: “This amendment provides that no tax, fee or penalty imposed by this legislation shall be applied to any individual earning less than $200,000 per year or any couple earning less than $250,000 per year.” Democrats defeated it.
Contradiction #2: From a Promise to Reject a Bill That “Adds One Dime to the Deficit” to $239 Billion Added to the Deficit
In his speech to the Joint Session of Congress, the President was adamant: “I will not sign [a bill] if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.”
And yet House bill H.R. 3200 will increase the deficit by an amazing $239 billion over the next decade.
The Baucus bill pretends to be deficit neutral but it’s an accounting gimmick. “It pays for itself” by forcing a new $250-300 billion unfunded mandate on the states. And it doesn’t include nearly $300 billion that will be spent to adjust physician payments in Medicare.
Contradiction #3: From a Promise That “If You Like Your Current Plan You Can Keep It” to Half of Medicare Advantage Benefits Being Cut
In his speech to the Joint Session of Congress last month and elsewhere, the President has reassured nervous Americans that if they like their current coverage, his reform will let them keep it.
Unless you happen to have Medicare Advantage, that is.
Or employer provided insurance.
The director of the nonpartisan CBO testified before the Senate that, under the Senate bill, the benefits of seniors under Medicare Advantage would be cut in half.
And an analysis of the House bill found that 88 million people will lose their current insurance under government health care.
What’s more, both bills would disrupt vision care for more than 100 million Americans.
Contradiction #4: From “If You Like Your Current Doctor You Can Keep Your Doctor” to Squeezing Doctors and Hospitals Until They Reduce Patient Access
Here’s what three doctors who are former chairmen of the American Medical Association (AMA) say about the cuts to Medicare in Democratic health reform bills:
“Now the government is saying that additional Medicare cuts are coming—thus forcing doctors to try and make up the difference in volume, by seeing more patients. If you ask patients about this, they understand that more volume means less time with the doctor. That’s something that all patients and doctors should oppose. In time, it will be difficult to find a physician.”
And here’s what the executive director of the Mayo Clinic said: “We will have to violate our values in order to stay in business and reduce our access to government patients.”
Contradiction #5: From a Promise that No Government Bureaucrat Will Stand Between Patients and Doctors to a Medicare Commission With the Power to Deny Treatment
Just this week, in a speech to doctors gathered in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama reiterated his pledge not to let a Washington bureaucrat get between a patient and their doctor.
But the Senate Baucus bill creates an “Independent Medicare Commission” with the ability to deny benefits to the elderly or the disabled based on a government calculation of the costs versus the benefits.
Contradiction #6: From a Promise to “Slow the Growth of Health Care Costs For Our Families” to a New Tax on Hearing Aids, Wheel Chairs and Breakthrough Drugs
In his speech to the Joint Session of Congress, the President pledged to “slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses and our government.”
But the Senate bill contains a tax on medical technology companies and drug makers that will raise the cost to American families for thousands of drugs and devices, including pacemakers, eyeglasses, hearing aids and powered wheelchairs.
Contradiction #7: From a Promise that Health Care Reform Will Fix the Economy to New Taxes on Small Businesses
One of President Obama’s main rationales for health care reform is that it is necessary for economic recovery.
Working against this promise is the provision in the Senate bill that will tax small businesses — the engine of American economic growth and job creation — that can’t afford to purchase health insurance for their employees. It’s hard to see how the economy recovers when small businesses are prevented from hiring new workers by a new government tax.
Contradiction #8: From Insuring All Americans to Leaving 25 Million Uninsured
One of President Obama’s three basic goals for health care reform is to provide insurance to those who don’t currently have it.
That’s the promise. The reality? The CBO has determined that the Senate bill will leave about 25 million nonelderly Americans uninsured.
I could go on, but I think the point is made. The differences between what Americans have been promised from health care reform and what they are getting go beyond the usual give and take of Washington.
A Congress controlled by the President’s party is producing health care legislation that blatantly contradicts his most basic, often repeated, promises.
What will the President do? Will President Obama veto health care reform?
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