Video: Sebelius’ double talk on public plan
posted at 4:05 pm on June 17, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Another gem from the guys at Verum Serum. The video has been up before, but it’s even better after hearing from Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today. She tried denying that a public-plan option would serve as a stalking horse for single-payer nationalization of health care, but in 2007, she sang a different tune:
In 2007, Sebelius explains that the US can’t just change to a single-payer system without a way to “close the gap” and move gradually to it. Today, though, she tells the AP that the public plan isn’t designed to do that:
In an interview with The Associated Press, Sebelius said that President Barack Obama does not want to drive health insurers out of business, but make them more competitive by offering working families and small businesses the option of a public plan without the high overhead costs of marketing, administration and profits. …
The idea of a public plan has drawn sharp opposition from the insurance industry, which sees it as a step toward a government-run system like in Canada or the United Kingdom. Business groups, doctors and hospitals also have concerns. Republicans have made the issue the cornerstone of their opposition to Obama’s health care push. And while liberals enthusiastically support a government plan, conservative Democrats are leery.
Sebelius said that Obama is not trying to run insurers out of town.
The notion that a public option “is really the stalking horse” for a government-run system “is not accurate,” Sebelius said.
Er, sure, except that Sebelius herself championed that very approach.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal notices the Democrats shifting positions on competitiveness:
Democrats have spent years arguing that corporate tax rates don’t matter to U.S. competitiveness. But all of a sudden one of their favorite arguments for government-run health care has become . . . U.S. corporate competitiveness. Political conversions on this scale could use a little scrutiny. …
A recent study from none other than the White House Council of Economic Advisers notes exactly this point: If medical spending continues to accelerate, it expects take-home pay to stagnate. According to the New York Times, White House economic aide Larry Summers pressured CEA chairman Christine Romer to make the competitiveness argument, “adding that it was among the political advisers’ favorite ‘talking points.’” Ms. Romer pointedly retorted, “I’m not going to put schlocky arguments in there.” How the schlock gets into Mr. Obama’s speeches is a different question.
It’s certainly true that the U.S. employer-based insurance system can dampen entrepreneurial spirits. There’s the “job lock” phenomenon, in which employees fear leaving a less productive job because they’re afraid to lose their health benefits. Another problem is that insurance costs more for small groups than the large risk pools that big corporations assemble, meaning that it’s harder to form new businesses that can offer policies. But all this is really an argument for developing the individual health insurance market, where policies would follow workers, not jobs.
As for the competitiveness line, it’s nonsense for most companies. The exceptions are heavily unionized businesses like auto makers that have locked themselves in to gold-plated coverage, especially for retirees. They have a harder time adjusting health costs and wages. Other companies might get a bit more running room in the short run if government assumed all health costs a la the single-payer systems of Western Europe. But over time the market would clear — compensation being determined by the demand for and supply of labor — and wages would rise. Or they might not rise at all if health-care costs are merely replaced by the tax increases necessary to finance Mr. Obama’s new multi-trillion-dollar entitlement.
Besides, as the WSJ notes in another article, the Democrats plan on taxing businesses to pay for ObamaCare:
In the House, Democrats are putting off public release of their financing plans, but have begun discussions. Among the options under consideration: a levy on upper-income individuals, or claiming revenue that would be raised when the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy begin to expire. Another option is curbing a tax break that lets companies defer or postpone taxes on their foreign income.
Obama has already announced his intention to pursue the latter tax increase. How, exactly, does that make US-based corporations more competitive? Answer: it doesn’t.
It’s not just Sebelius that doesn’t know the meaning of the word competition.
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