Democrats in Fantasyland on Health Care Reform

While Harry Reid, the Scrooge of the Senate,  forces a health care vote on December 24, Americans are commencing their Christmas celebrations. Across the continent from Washington, one popular destination, Disneyland, is decorated with Christmas splendor in anticipation of hundreds of thousands of people visiting it over the holidays.

There is perhaps no finer example of the Americans Founders’ wisdom in securing Americans’ right to keep the fruits of their own labor, and to use those fruits in creative and ingenious ways for the good of society, than Walt Disney's creation of Disneyland out of whole cloth. The park in turn was built as a sort of homage to that same American spirit, with its "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," its idyllic Main Street, U.S.A., and its tribute to the self-reliant pioneers of Frontierland.

A radically contrary vision is being advanced in Washington. Rooted in a strong faith in central planning and consolidated control, and prescribing a transfer of trillions of dollars from the American people to government -- and from government to insurance companies -- ObamaCare stands in marked contrast to these quintessentially American notions. But Disneyland’s charm is inviting even to ObamaCare supporters. As I write, they are comfortably residing in Fantasyland.

In talking about their proposed health care overhaul (it is not reform), the Democrats are having are terrible time separating fact from fantasy. They are confusing these in three particularly notable ways.

First, they are falsely portraying their proposed overhaul as being deficit-neutral -- or even deficit-reducing. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t buy this nonsense, but there was Democratic Senator Kent Conrad on national TV on Sunday, saying, “Fact is it reduces the deficit in the first 10 years by $130 billion.” That is not fact; it is fantasy.  The $130 billion figure is based on the fantasy that the Democrats would cut doctors’ payments under Medicare by 21 percent and never raise them back up -- ever.  (They are getting credit for this cut in the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the bill.)  No one in America expects this to happen. If it doesn’t, then according to the CBO, the bill would add over $200 billion to the deficit.

Conrad, a liberal who is “representing” red-state North Dakota, also implied that the proposed overhaul would lower nationwide health care costs. Conrad claimed that “in the second 10 years, according to CBO, it does bend the cost curve in the right way.”  Even if this were true, having to wait more than a decade for results from a $2.5 trillion bill would hardly be impressive -- and would expose the manufactured urgency of having to vote on Christmas Eve. But, alas, this too is fantasy. The CBO has said nothing of the sort, and in fact (in its final report on the bill) explicitly said that it “has not assessed the net effect of the subsequent legislation on NHE [National Health Expenditures], either within the 10-year budget window or for the subsequent decade.”

However, the Office of the Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has assessed the bill’s effects, and it has concluded that the bill would bend the cost curve up --  raising costs in relation to projections under current law and raising the percentage of the gross domestic product spent on health care from 17 percent today to 21 percent by the end of 2019. And while the CBO hasn’t assessed the bill’s impact on overall health costs, it has concluded that, by 2016, the average American family’s insurance premiums would rise by $2,100 per year in the individual market in relation to the costs that they pay today.  Thus, under ObamaCare, Americans would get to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs -- a sort of triple crown of health care expenditures.

The Democrats’ illusion that their proposed health care overhaul would somehow improve -- or would even not exacerbate -- the dire financial challenges posed by Medicare is a third area in which they are having serious trouble separating fact from fiction.  On Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “Medicare is going in the red by 2017. We had to get something done.”  That “something” would be to siphon $1 trillion out of Medicare (and related programs) and spend it on ObamaCare.  The notion that this would strengthen Medicare, which is about to confront the baby boomers’ retirement, is, of course, fantasy.  The CBO highlights that ObamaCare could “reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care” for Medicare beneficiaries. In truth, Medicare is perhaps the last place in America to look for money to spend elsewhere, and looting from it to fund ObamaCare is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.

The Democrats’ claims about the effects of ObamaCare on deficits, health costs, and Medicare do not survive the analysis of the CBO, the assessment of the CMS Chief Actuary, or the exercise of common sense -- but they are alive and well in Democratic circles. They likely would have suffered the same fate as Cinderella’s carriage at midnight, if only they had lasted beyond the stroke of noon. The Democrats are still determined to turn their pumpkin into law, but it will be the American people who will ultimately decide its fate -- along with the fate of a president and a Congress who are determined to force the American people to bend to their will.

And that makes Tomorrowland sound like a much more attractive place.