Saturday, January 02, 2010

Nelson's Ads: Reality Check

Ben Nelson’s recent television ads seek to bolster his sagging poll numbers by going directly to the people with his views on health care. Unfortunately, the senator is still on the wrong track. Nebraskans should continue to be outraged. Below are some off-the-cuff reactions to comments from Senator Nelson in his last ad. (The quotes reflect my best efforts to track his language. I will gladly accept correction if the language is inaccurate.)

First, Senator Nelson tells us that the health care bill provides a “common sense, private sector approach that now reflects Nebraska values.” I fail to see how an approach to health care administration that compels citizens to purchase insurance at the pain of fines and imprisonment reflects a “private sector” approach. And what of provisions that set up government bureaucracies that, according to the bill, cannot be repealed? I don’t think thoughtful Nebraskans -- or other conscientious Americans -- approve of this kind of government intervention into our lives. Neither do we approve of the heavy-handed and duplicitous means for passing this bill, or attempts to hamstring future generations from changing provisions that, upon reflection, seem unwise.

Second, he tells us that this Bill “lowers costs for families and small business”. Perhaps he should consult the evidence that is emerging about the likely impacts of this bill on health insurance premiums. Even the CBO admits that insurance outside of employer group plans will increase in cost. For a family policy, data reported November 30 indicated that the costs would increase from $13,100 to $15,200 per year. Private studies likewise show increases. Of course, supporters of the bill point out that government subsidies may help families earning less than $88,000, but let’s be honest: those subsidies are not free. This is not driving down healthcare costs; it is merely redistributing them through a costly government bureaucracy. Rather than relying on market incentives for cost savings (such as health savings accounts) or addressing significant problems that raise the costs of treatment, like liability threats due to malpractice, this bill will impose financial penalties on physicians based on treatment and referral outcomes. If that approach reduces costs, it is also likely to reduce care, which is not so good if you are sick.

Third, he asserts that the Bill “protects seniors and Medicare.” Of course, this ignores the fact that this bill is based on continued low Medicare reimbursement rates. These rates will likely mean a reduction of services available to Medicare patients, if Congress ultimately permits these cuts to be implemented. (If it does not, then see the deficit reduction lie stated below.) How is that protecting seniors and Medicare?

Fourth, he baldly states that the bill “stands up to special interests”. I suppose giving Mutual of Omaha exemptions not available to other competing insurers really shows how special interests are not influencing the Senator. And of course Nebraska is now the recipient of the “Cornhusker Kickback” regarding Medicaid, while other states will bear huge additional future costs. I guess the families and small businesses in those states will have to pay higher taxes – oops, Senator – does that cost count? Perhaps the Senator doesn’t think those costs matter to them.

Finally, he suggests this will lower the deficit. But this bill is a deficit buster. Supporters claim hypothetical reductions in deficits over the next ten years only through financial legerdemain: by imposing new taxes immediately and recording revenues for 10 years, but providing most benefits only for the last six years. If one looks honestly at the future value of government obligations, this program is not remotely sustainable under current revenue structures. Those who earn and pay can expect to bear even greater burdens.

Health care debate is far from over. The democratic leadership’s blind desire to deliver a political message is going to embroil us all in controversy for years to come as the full costs of this fiasco emerge and the full extent of the government’s interference with the medical delivery structure becomes known. By then, I can only hope that the Senator will be in the private sector and that he will have to stand in line with the rest of his comrades for rationed care from the same health care delivery system.

P.S. Senator Grassley proposed an amendment to the bill that would have required members of Congress to purchase their healthcare through the same insurance exchanges as the people. The democratic leadership would not permit a vote on this amendment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It will be great to watch Nebraska Cornhuskers, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.