Pelosi and Reid's health-care monsters

November 20, 2009|By Matt Patterson

Just before Halloween, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled her latest Obamacare proposal: H.R. 3962, a 2,000-page legislative monster. On Nov. 7, the bill narrowly passed in the House by a vote of 220 to 215. If enacted into law, Ms. Pelosi's creation would do the following:

•Raise taxes. The Wall Street Journal calls H.R. 3962 the "Worst Bill Ever" in part because of "$572 billion in new taxes," including an income tax "surcharge" that despite being advertised as only affecting the rich would actually be devastating to small-business owners. This surcharge would raise the top marginal tax rate to 45 percent before state taxes - which would also be bound to go up as a result of the massive proposed expansion in Medicaid, for which governors would be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars.

•Decimate Medicare. In the prosaic language of the Congressional Budget Office, the new House bill would result in "permanent reductions in the annual updates to Medicare's payment rates" to the tune of $229 billion. But that's not all; the popular Medicare Advantage program would be gutted by $170 billion. It is not hard to guess what this would mean for seniors' health care options, but we don't have to guess: According to the CBO, cuts to Medicare Advantage "could lead many plans to limit the benefits they offer, raise their premiums, or withdraw from the program." Indeed.

•Cripple our economy. The CBO pegs the gross total cost of the new bill at $1.05 trillion over 10 years, but other estimates put the true cost as high as $1.3 trillion. Any way you add it, the new House bill would be a trillion-dollar albatross around the neck of our already floundering economy at a time when the federal deficit is already a record and ruinous $1.4 trillion. As Sen Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, warns, "Our fiscal house is deteriorating dangerously" due to these unsustainable levels of deficit and debt, which "pose the greatest threat to our nation's future prosperity and to our children's and grandchildren's future." The consequences of all this red ink? "If we don't get back in balance, our economy could spin out of control, with countless jobs being lost."

•Threaten our freedom. A count by congressional Republicans found the new bill contains "3,425 uses of the word 'shall,' representing new duties for bureaucrats and mandates on individuals, businesses, and states." Don't want insurance? Can't afford it? Tough; you shall get it.

These mandates are among the most troubling (and least discussed) features of Obamacare. It's one thing to wish health insurance for all who want it, quite another for government to dictate that everyone must have it, and to be willing to use taxation power to punish those who don't. What kind of country does that? Certainly not a "free" one - if free means anything.

H.R. 3962 is only one of several recent Obamacare proposals - Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a similar, Senate version Wednesday. And while there are some differences between the various plans swirling around Capitol Hill - some contain a public option, some don't - there is a depressing sameness to them: billions in new taxes and Medicare cuts, as well as an unprecedented enlargement in the size, scope and power of government. All would alter the American republic almost beyond recognition.

The latest bill to stagger forth, Frankenstein-like, from Ms. Pelosi's lab is no exception. H.R. 3962 is a bureaucratic monster, and like any monster, even one stitched together with the best of intentions, it will bring nothing but ruin.

Matt Patterson, a Montgomery County resident, is a policy analyst for The National Center For Public Policy Research and a National Review Institute Washington Fellow. His e-mail is mpatterson@na tionalcenter.org.

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