The news of sticker shock to health care premiums under Obamacare had already begun to circulate today when suddenly a bad news cycle became truly awful for the high priests of Obamacare. First the American Cancer Society and other groups noticed that the Senate bill had snuck in the authority of insurance companies to set annual or lifetime benefit caps which shocked some Obamacare supporters.
And then the roof fell in: The Office of the Actuary in the Department of Health and Human Services issued a devastating assessment of the Senate plan which concluded it would drive overall health care costs higher, that it would lead to Medicare benefit cuts, that its long-term care insurance plan would likely be a costly failure, that 33 million people would remain uninsured after the plan was in effect, and that the cuts to doctors and hospitals envisioned by the plan were unsustainable, and that one in five hospitals would move to unprofitability under the plan.
The Reid bill is really tottering now. "If this thing falls apart, you can look back to today as the tipping point," says a Republican aide in the Senate, echoing what Lamar Alexander notes in the Costa post below. First, there was last night's CNN poll showing 61 percent opposition. Then, there was the devastating CMS report today. "Nobody went to the floor that I could see to defend it on the Democratic side," says the aide. The back-drop for all this is the non-deal that Reid hyped as a break-through earlier this week, only to have it unravel almost immediately. Even Bill Nelson says the Medicare buy-in is basically a "non-starter."
The Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution released a report today detailing how Americans — including Californians — are opting to stay in the state they live in at the highest rate since World War II.
"Migration away from areas stretching from San Francisco to San Diego, where high housing prices fueled 'middle-class flight' to the interior West, has now retrenched as home foreclosures rise and job opportunities diminish in states like Nevada and Arizona," according to the report, called The Great American Migration Slowdown: Regional and Metropolitan Dimensions.
"During the middle part of the decade," the report said, "younger couples and singles with moderate education levels dominated the groups leaving California for lower-cost housing and job opportunities in surrounding states. Now, the state seems to be retaining many of these same groups, particularly younger whites and Hispanics who are married couples or singles, as housing cost pressures ease."
When the GOP controlled Congress and the White House, many Democrats and their allies in the media complained that Republicans were more interested in pursuing a narrow ideological agenda intended to transform government and society rather than in solving the nation's problems.
Whether you agreed with that assessment, the charge wasn't completely unreasonable. Tax cuts to strangle government, deregulation for the sake of deregulation and social policy to advance the conservative agenda at any cost (e.g., Terri Schiavo) seemed among the rules of the day, no matter what the problem or the public's desire.
"A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer," reports the AP. The Senate Finance Committee barred annual caps altogether. The merged Senate bill only erases "unreasonable" annual caps. What's "unreasonable?" Hard to say.
Hill sources explain that this was inserted because CBO said premiums would "go through the roof" if insurers couldn't cap benefits. The official quote from Jim Manley, Harry Reid's spokesperson, says much the same thing. "We are concerned that banning all annual limits, regardless of whether services are voluntary, could lead to higher premiums," he explained. "We continue to work with experts on how best to accomplish our goals of preventing insurance companies from imposing arbitrary coverage limits while providing the premium relief American families need and deserve.â€
Since we operate an overwhelmingly carbon-based economy, the EPA will be regulating practically everything. No institution that emits more than 250 tons of CO2 a year will fall outside EPA control. This means more than a million building complexes, hospitals, plants, schools, businesses and similar enterprises. (The EPA proposes regulating emissions only above 25,000 tons, but it has no such authority.) Not since the creation of the Internal Revenue Service has a federal agency been given more intrusive power over every aspect of economic life.
This naked assertion of vast executive power in the name of the environment is the perfect fulfillment of the prediction of Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus that environmentalism is becoming the new socialism, i.e., the totemic ideal in the name of which government seizes the commanding heights of the economy and society.
It's hard to imagine a better illustration of the panic and recklessness stringing ObamaCare along in the Senate than the putative deal that Harry Reid announced this week. The Majority Leader is claiming that a Medicare "buy-in" for people from ages 55 to 64 has overcome the liberal-moderate impasse over the "public option." But if anything, this gambit is an even faster road to government-run health care.
The public optionâ€”an insurance program open to everyone, financed by taxpayers and run like Medicareâ€”is intended as a veiled substitute for "single-payer" Canada-style insurance. Under the cover of "choice" and "competition," the entitlement would quickly squeeze out private insurance as people gravitated to "free" coverage and the government held down costs via price controls the way Medicare does now.
Well, DUH and this is why they did not promote this idea in the begiinning of the health care debate.