The stealth health-care nationalization in the “stimulus”

posted at 10:55 am on January 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Kimberly Strassel gives the Obama administration credit for learning from history with their stimulus package.  Not from the history of economics — the package pretty much entails a What Not To Do aggregation of New Deal ignorance — but from the history of health-care nationalization.  Rather than attempt it honestly, as Bill and Hillary Clinton did in 1993, Obama has hidden nuggets of it within the so-called stimulus bill that passed the House (via Power Line):

Still, it’s the “stimulus” that has proven the real gift horse — a behemoth that has allowed Democrats to speed up the takeover of health care under cover of an economic crisis. They initially claimed, for instance, the “stimulus” would provide Medicaid money to states struggling to pay existing bills. What in fact it does is dramatically expand the number of Americans who qualify for Medicaid.

Under “stimulus,” Medicaid is now on offer not to just poor Americans, but Americans who have lost their jobs. And not just Americans who have lost their jobs, but their spouses and their children. And not Americans who recently lost their jobs, but those who lost jobs, say, early last year. And not just Americans who already lost their jobs, but those who will lose their jobs up to 2011. The federal government is graciously footing the whole bill. The legislation also forbids states to apply income tests in most cases.

House Democrat Henry Waxman was so thrilled by this blowout, it was left to Republicans to remind him that the very banking millionaires he dragged to the Hill last year for a grilling would now qualify for government aid. His response? A GOP proposal to limit subsidies to Americans with incomes under $1 million was accepted during markup, but had disappeared by final passage. In this new health-care nirvana, even the rich are welcome. CBO estimates? An additional 1.2 million on the federal Medicaid dime in 2009.

The “stimulus” also hijacks Cobra, a program that lets the unemployed retain access to their former company health benefits — usually for about 18 months. The new stimulus permits any former employee over the age of 55 to keep using Cobra right up until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. And here’s the kicker: Whereas employees were previously responsible for paying their health premiums while on Cobra, now the feds will pay 65%. CBO estimates? Seven million Americans will have the feds mostly pay their insurance bills in 2009. …

Add it up, and Democrats may move 10 million more Americans under the federal health umbrella — in just four weeks!

Rahm Emanuel once advised that crisis means opportunity, and the Democrats have taken that message to heart.  They’ve exploited the sense of economic crisis in order to build a Trojan Horse stimulus bill that encompasses all of their legislative goals — and they’re trying to stampede people into supporting it out of panic.  Hope and Change?  More like Fear and Loathing.

What this does has nothing to do with stimulating the economy.  Worse, it exponentially increases the difficulty in reforming entitlements, and Medicare already was the one program most in need of reform.  It’s heading into insolvency even without the additional load of ten million new and unplanned subscribers in three weeks.  Now, we will have even more subscribers to throw into the reform grinder, making it more painful than ever to effect the necessary changes to bring the program back into solvency.

And how do the Democrats plan to make this work?  They want to kill the one part of the program that actually receives payments.  Medicare Advantage is exactly the kind of public/private partnership that could rescue Medicare, where recipients buy supplemental coverage to make Medicare work for them better and extend the bargaining power to reduce costs at the same time.  Democrats want to kill that program and force all MA patients back to the poor coverage Medicare alone provides.

This demonstrates what a disaster this stimulus bill is, and what a disaster Democratic rule in Washington will be over the next two years.  It’s hard to believe one could credibly say this, but I long for the honesty of the Clintons.


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