What did the CBO reveal?
By year’s end, President Barack Obama will emerge with something he can call health care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.
But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” in his July 22 news conference.
Reforming the health care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.
But instead Congress and Obama will target insurance companies in such a way that it will only make the problem worse. What will it look like?
(1) On June 16, the CBO determined that the Senate Finance Committee bill would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years, delivering a sticker shock that was near fatal.
(2) Five weeks later, the CBO gave its verdict on the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, Dr. Obama’s latest miracle cure, conjured up at the last minute to save Obamacare from fiscal ruin, and consisting of a committee of medical experts highly empowered to make Medicare cuts.
The CBO said that council would do nothing, trimming costs by perhaps 0.2 percent. A 0.2 percent cut is not a solution; it’s a punch line.
(3) The final blow came when the CBO euthanized the Obama “out years” myth. The administration’s argument had been: Sure, Obamacare will initially increase costs and deficits. But it pays for itself in the long run because it bends the curve downward in coming decades.
To win back the vast constituency that has insurance, is happy with it, and is mightily resisting the fatal lures of Obamacare, the president will in the end simply impose heavy regulations on the insurance companies that will make what you already have secure, portable and imperishable: no policy cancellations, no pre-existing condition requirements, perhaps even a cap on out-of-pocket expenses.
Nirvana. But wouldn’t this bankrupt the insurance companies? Of course it would. There will be only one way to make this work: Impose an individual mandate. Force the 18 million Americans between 18 and 34 who (often quite rationally) forgo health insurance to buy it. This will create a huge new pool of customers who rarely get sick but will be paying premiums every month. And those premiums will subsidize nirvana health insurance for older folks.
The net result will be kicking the problem down the road which will only increase problems rather than solve them.