Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally unveiled his health care reform bill today, which weighs in at over 2,000 pages and has been scored by the CBO at a cost of $849 billion. Reid bragged the Senate plan would save $127 billion over 10 years – that’s great, but it also happens to only offset one month of our current deficit spending. Fantastic savings there.
Reid hopes to have a vote to start debate as early as Saturday as the mad dash to ram through another massive piece of legislation commences. Sen. Tom Coburn has pledged to have the bill read aloud, which will no doubt cause delay and inject a needed measure of deliberation in a process that seems designed to produce any signed bill as quickly as possible, no matter what’s in it.
With such a huge mass of text, it’s going to take time to parse out the positive spin and find out exactly what’s entailed in Reid’s plan. It boasts a public option and health insurance exchanges, and promises to subsidize the health insurance of families making up to $88,000 a year. Does it have an individual mandate? Does it have penalties for those who don’t pay in?
It will be paid for by cuts on Medicare spending that either won’t actually materialize or will prove disastrous to seniors if truly enacted. What will definitely materialize are the new taxes on healthcare industries and increased taxes for wealthier Americans. This makes the favorable scoring by the CBO possible, as well as a lack of the $200 billion Medicare “doctor fix” that was hidden in the House bill and failed to pass in the Senate.
Moderate Democratic Senators like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu are already balking at the cost of the bill, though they may still vote to open debate on the bill this weekend. I remain unimpressed with any method that tackles the much-needed issue of health care reform which requires a massive government top-down all-or-nothing approach. There’s a responsible and judicious way to do this, and pushing through legislation that’s longer than War and Peace in the shortest amount of time possible isn’t it.
One last thought – when even the Chinese (who hold a large amount of our debt) are getting skittish over the cost of a Congressional health care reform bill, you may want to take notice. A parting quote from CNBC’s Andrew Busch:
As you may have read, the Chinese grilled OMB director Peter Orzag [sic] on the impact that the health care bill would have on the US fiscal position. As I have warned, the passing of the current bill by Congress is a negative for the US dollar and may trigger a re-evaluation of Chinese US Treasury purchases.