According to the Washington Post, here is what Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) thinks about the latest iteration of the Senate health care bill: “I don’t know what the deal is…But I think at the end of the day that we’ll have 60 votes.”
Apparently this is Democrats’ method of measuring legislation’s merits. They want something passed, and few really care what’s in it at this point. But Americans should care a lot. Even if the Senate has scrapped the so-called “public option,” the flurry of regulations, new mandates, and new taxes are going to hit all of us.
Remember how Democrats used to accuse Republicans of wanting to destroy Medicare? During the 1990s, that was a standard talking point in just about every Congressional campaign. Yet today, it’s Democrats who stand ready to push Medicare toward the breaking point. As hospital and doctors groups are desperately trying to explain, the current Medicare program is already a mess, more and more doctors are avoiding Medicare patients, and adding millions more to Medicare’s roles will only make this problem worse.
The Washington Post summarizes some of the concerns being expressed by industry groups:
Lawmakers remained wary of the objections of hospital and doctor groups, which have considerable influence on Capitol Hill. The groups believe their members could be the big losers under the proposal to allow people as young as 55 to buy into Medicare, because the program pays providers at much lower rates than private insurers, and because older Americans are the greatest consumers of health-care services….
“Such a policy will further negatively impact hospitals, after we have already agreed to contribute the maximum level of sustainable reductions that community hospitals can reasonably endure,” the Federation of American Hospitals said in an e-mail to its members. …
American Medical Association President J. James Rohack warned Wednesday on his blog that expanding Medicare would jeopardize access to physician services not only for near-retirees, but for millions of people older than 65 who already are covered by the federal plan.
A Medicare buy-in program would “adversely impact American society by putting people into a government program that is going broke with the combination of Baby Boomers entering in 2012 as they turn 65,” Rohack wrote. “We would add millions of more patients to a program where it is difficult for a new enrollee to get an appointment with a physician.”
Indeed, to say the least, there is something troubling about expanding a program that is already facing trillions of dollars of deficits in coming decades. And many questions remain unanswered, such as how exactly would people buy into the Medicare program? Presumably, Medicare wouldn’t be allowed to discriminate or take into account an individuals’ health status when determining how much to charge for coverage. With no young people in the pool to share the “risks” associated with health costs in middle- to old-age, the premiums will likely be very expensive-unless, taxpayers end up heavily subsidizing the costs for these new Medicare entrants.
We’ll know more as the details emerge, but the American people should be concerned: Harry Reid may be willing to celebrate any deal at all that will get a bill through the Senate, but the public knows that a bad bill is far worse than no bill at all.