History or Travesty, Health Care Reform Becoming a Reality

Whenever politicians start bandying about the word "historic" to describe something they've just done, grab your wallet and lock up the silver. Chances are, the only thing "historic" they've accomplished is in coming up with a more unique and inefficient way to separate the taxpayer's hard-earned coin from his person.

In the case of health care reform, there is other history to be made: the unprecedented thrust of the federal government into the most intimate and private parts of the American citizen's personal life. The Democrats are about to make your health the government's business, while controlling directly or indirectly a gargantuan bite of the economy.

We are told that this is necessary for the good of all, that this is the only way to insure the millions who are without coverage -- whether they want it or not. Government altruism with a gun to one's head might seem a bizarre notion of liberty to some, but we are assured that this is part of the new America being created for our benefit.

How we got to this point is a tale told by an idiot. So I will turn this narrative over to Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson:

"I know this is hard for some of my colleagues to accept and I appreciate their right to disagree," Nelson told reporters at the Capitol, of the many changes made at his behest. "But I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions."

Which provisions are those, Senator Nelson?

Under the new abortion provisions, states can opt out of allowing plans to cover abortion in the new insurance exchanges the bill would set up, to serve individuals who lack coverage through their jobs. Plus, enrollees in plans that do cover abortion procedures would pay for the coverage with separate checks -- one for abortion, one for the rest of any health-care services.

Nelson secured full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Other states must pay a small portion of the additional cost. He won concessions for qualifying nonprofit insurers and for Medigap providers from a new insurance tax, and was able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts.

It's easy to achieve health care reform when you're bribing members with other people's money.

Two other senators got Medicaid deals of their own. Bernie Sanders, the socialist from Vermont, was bought off with some additional state aid for Medicaid, as was Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.

As of this writing, the "manager's amendment" -- 386 pages in addition to the more than 2,000 already part of the package -- is still being digested by wonks on both sides, so there is the possibility that there are some surprises beyond what we've already discovered. Basically, revenue will be raised to fund the scheme by hiking payroll taxes on those they consider "rich," as well as a variety of smaller hits including a weird 10% tax to be paid by customers of indoor tanning salons. Why stick it to tanning customers? Perhaps the pasty-faced Democrats are jealous of people walking around with tans in the middle of winter.

Also increased in the manager's amendment is the tax paid by those who refuse to acquire insurance. You will now be forced to shell out $750 or no more than 2% of your income if you refuse to participate in this vanguard program for the new America.

There is some assistance for really small businesses in the form of tax credits, but the effect on business creation and expansion for this vital jobs engine will be a net negative. It is hard to see a burst of entrepreneurial energy that would jump-start the economy when employee costs will increase substantially.