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The federal government takeover of America’s health care system is under way.

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On Health Care, a Vote to End Debate Is a Vote for the Bill

The federal government takeover of America’s health care system is under way.

The federal government takeover of America’s health care system is under way. Whatever form it finally takes, Americans need to know what is being done to them and who is responsible.  

Everything the Senate or the House does has two parts, process and substance. In the Senate, for example, debate on a bill must end before there can be a vote on the bill itself. When there might be enough votes to pass a controversial bill but fewer than the 60 votes needed to end debate on it, some senators may be tempted to say they oppose the bill but still vote to end debate. When the Senate bill to take over the health care system comes up, senators cannot have it both ways. They cannot say they oppose the bill but then support the process that makes passage possible. A vote for ending debate is a vote for the bill.  

This is critical because of what this health care takeover means for America. Liberals want Americans to believe that such a massive “solution” means there must be a problem of unimaginable proportions. But 85% of Americans have health insurance and the vast majority are happy with their coverage. Only about one-third of the uninsured are Americans who do not already have affordable insurance options.  

Here is what liberals are concocting to address the situation. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee bill emerged on September 17, weighing in at 840 pages. A month later, the Senate Finance Committee’s bill had ballooned to 1,504 pages. And now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill is a whopping 1,990 pages.  

Taxes on Middle Class

Democratic leaders of both the Senate and House say they will include a so-called “public option” in their healthcare takeover bills. That simply means that the federal government will now be directly in the healthcare business. The result will be higher taxes and insurance premiums, enormous Medicare cuts, and a skyrocketing budget deficit. It will also mean the federal government will expand its control over far more of our economy and the lives of Americans than ever before.  

The final legislation will certainly be even more liberal than the Finance Committee bill, which is the only bill in any Senate or House committee that did not contain a public option. Even the Finance Committee bill, however, includes more than $400 billion in new taxes on employers, individuals, insurance plans, prescription drugs, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and a whole lot more. Americans already know in general that such costs get passed along to consumers like them. What Americans need to know in particular, however, is that nearly 90% of these new taxes will be paid by those making less than $200,000 a year.  

By the way, under the Finance Committee bill, the tax increases and Medicare cuts kick in immediately, while spending, such as subsidies to help people afford higher premiums, would not start for more than three years. That’s right, the government will start taking from Americans a long time before it starts giving anything to them. This is why the claim that this legislation will lower the deficit is a fraud. That claim considers all the revenue but only some of the spending. So much for that famous adage:  “we’re here from the government and we’re here to help you.”    

The American people seem to be getting it. By more than two to one, Americans believe that the cost and the quality of their healthcare will go in opposite directions. Costs will go up, quality will go down. And a majority of Americans believe that this legislation will force them to change coverage. They are right on all counts.   

This health care takeover will also cost Americans in terms of their freedom, because the Constitution, which protects liberty by limiting government, does not give Congress authority to do this takeover. Congress, for example, has authority to regulate interstate commerce. This allows regulation of some activities in which people choose to engage but does not allow requiring them to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance. When Congress attempted a healthcare takeover in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office said it would be an “unprecedented form of federal action.” Just a few months ago, the Congressional Research Service affirmed that it is still unprecedented. The Constitution does not mean whatever Congress wants it to mean and, by replacing incentives with mandates, Congress would be going where the Constitution does not permit.  

Senators will be voting on a federal takeover of the health care system that will raise taxes, premiums, and the deficit while undermining health care choices and quality. A vote to end debate on this health care takeover is a vote for the takeover and a vote for unlimited federal government power. It is time to stand up and be counted.    

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Sen. Hatch (R.-Utah) is the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

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