Ted Kennedy and the Government Bendover of Healthcare
posted at 1:27 am on June 1, 2009 by Karl
Sen. Ted Kennedy may unveil his healthcare takeover bill as early as today:
The plan in the summary document, provided by two Democrats who do not work for Kennedy, closely resembles extensive changes enacted in the senator’s home state three years ago.
In many respects it adopts the most liberal approaches to health reform being discussed in Washington. Kennedy, for example, embraces a proposal to create a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans, according to one senior adviser who was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Massachussetts version of healthcare reform has been an abject failure, as judged by everyone from Reason to the Boston Globe. That would explain the New York Times report that a split had developed between Kennedy and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Finance Committee, who is preparing his own bill. Baucus and Kennedy later issued a joint statement Saturday, saying they intend to cooperate so their committees pass similar bills. Kennedy’s bill serves the function of making whatever bill Baucus produces — which will likely be similar to Kennedy’s — seem more moderate by comparison.
Ultimately, as the Washington Post notes, the Democrats’ proposed government takeover of healthcare is being sold as cost-containment, but the Democrats’ proposals will run into the same basic problems as always:
Two cost-saving measures hold the most promise. First, what’s known as comparative effectiveness research, which tracks what works and what doesn’t, would also require outside boards directing doctors and hospitals about what procedures they could and couldn’t use. Policymakers have tended to dance around the second part of the equation. Second, eliminating the tax break for employer-provided health care could generate a good deal of savings and help bring down health-care inflation. But, again, there’s a political challenge; President Obama would have to admit that Sen. John McCain, his GOP opponent in the presidential campaign, was right on this idea.
Here is the bottom line: Most health-care inflation is the result of new technologies. Bending the curve enough to help balance the budget means walking away from some of the new technologies and devices that people want when they are sick. It also means improving consumer cost-consciousness through insurance reform and higher deductibles and co-payments. For most of us, that means paying more, not less. Even then, it is unlikely to be enough to get costs under control.
Asking Americans to pay more for less healthcare is a loser, and the Congressional Budget Office continues to be a thorn in the side of Congressional Democrats trying to pay for their program with faerie dust. As for comparative effectiveness research, Americans will get to hear about how it is already killing cancer patients in Britain. They will also hear about how it would tend to require real colonoscopies instead of virtual ones. Some politican or talk show host will figure out there’s a useful metaphor in that example.