The members of the House of Representatives were sworn in this week. The Republicans are now in the majority. Representative John Boehner (R-OH) is the new Speaker. Will their first major issue be the economy? The deficit? Jobs? Our young men and women dying on foreign soil? Don’t be silly. Just as the Democrats rushed past the necessary in favor of health care and health insurance, the Republicans are ready to vote to repeal “Obamacare”.
The Republicans have excitedly drawn a line in the sand. This expression couldn’t be more apropos. The common understanding is that they have marked off their territory and will defend to the death their beliefs. But we all know that this vote, and the days of debate that will precede it, are a terrible waste of time. The Republican House will pass a bill that the Democrat controlled Senate will ignore and the President would quickly veto.
The Republicans have excitedly drawn a line in the sand. Take that literally. As everyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting a beach knows, drawing a line in the sand is a temporary act that has no value. Your line, or if you are really ambitious, your sand castle, only lasts until the next inevitable wave washes it away.
The reopening of last year’s health care debate has allowed both sides to erect and knock down their favorite straw men. If it were not for the recent tragic events in Arizona, we would have had the debate and vote this week. Instead, we are treated to a week of accusations and recriminations. Health care will have to wait till next week.
But the posturing has begun.
The Republicans talk about tyranny, about forcing citizens to have insurance to pay their medical bills. They also point to a huge new federal government program, much like No Child Left Behind, that will impose new costs and responsibilities on the states. There is nothing worse than a poorly designed, unfunded program created by the other side.
The Democrats are relishing this debate. They love to point out that children are now guaranteed issue and that their preexisting conditions must be covered. The Dems just conveniently forget to mention that Child Only policies no longer exist in most of the country. If the policy still existed, it would be wonderful for a limited number of families. Instead, lots of healthy children can no longer be covered at a reasonable price.
Other new benefits include free Medicare physicals for seniors and that adult children can now stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. We don’t need to do scientific polling to learn that people like free stuff. Who pays for this free stuff? Well, you do of course.
The other big defense of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is that its repeal would cost us money. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been citing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate. This, too, is a moving target. The Senator has used a CBO figure of $232 billion of savings over the next ten years. Some sources have soft-peddled this down to a more believable $100 billion while others have reiterated the $230 billion guesstimate.
How does the federal government profit under PPACA? Part of the money comes from unrealistic cuts in Medicare. The oft-maligned new 1099 regulations, a set of rules to attack the underground economy, account for $18 billion. Another moneymaker is the tax/fee/penalty imposed on businesses that don’t provide employee coverage by 2014. The Democrats are also counting on the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans to generate a chunk of change.
None of these revenue sources stand on their own merit. The 1099 rules are already on life support.
The House Republicans have yet to creatively and constructively begin the difficult task of restructuring the PPACA to address our system’s deficiencies. The Democrats are defending the indefensible because they can. Meanwhile, businesses are spending money to comply with laws that are still changing and the only thing we all share is uncertainty.
If you are forced to watch C-Span next week, I suggest you hit the mute button.