A closer look at the health-care bill

The Democrats leaked their initial draft of a health-care plan over the weekend, the better to keep the press from scrutinizing it too carefully.  After taking a quick read of the unsearchable document, I pointed out a couple of big red flags and asked for more help.  Keith Hennessey has converted the document to a searchable PDF and written an extensive analysis of the bill — and it looks worse than we thought.

First, “gateways” do not mean providers, as I wrote over the weekend.  They refer to state-created insurance-plan markets, which the federal government would oversee.  However, as Hennessey notes, that still doesn’t eliminate the privacy issues:

  • The Secretaries of Treasury and HHS would have unlimited discretion to impose new taxes on individuals and employers who do not comply with the new mandates.
  • The Secretary of HHS could mandate that you provide him or her with “any such other information as [he/she] may prescribe.”

That last comes from Section 6055, directed at providers:

(a) IN GENERAL.-Every person who provides health insurance that is qualifying coverage shall make a return described in subsection (b).

(b) FORM Al’m MANNER OF RETURN.-A return is described in this subsection if such return –

(1) is in such form as the Secretary prescribes,

(2) contains-

(A) the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of each individual who is covered under health insurance that is qualifying coverage provided by such person, and

(B) the number of months during the calendar year during which each such individual was covered under such health insurance, and

(3) such other information as the Secretary may prescribe.

Without that HIPAA compliance section, which this draft does not include, what restrictions will the government have on demanding personal information on the enrollees?

Speaking of taxes and mandates, no one in Congress has any clear idea how to pay for ObamaCare.  That may be a big problem, since the bill forsees subsidies for “well over half of all Americans”, meaning that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats want to adopt yet another “soak the rich” scheme.

Also, health insurers could no longer act to identify risk factors at all.  For some with pre-existing conditions, this will be good news. However, the new plan bars insurers from assessing different rates for risky behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption.  That means that healthy people will effectively subsidize these behaviors as insurers raise costs for the entire pool, rather than the members creating the costs.

What about reforming Medicare?  The Obama administration says that the reforms will make health care less costly through the overhaul of Medicare.  Actually, it makes Medicare more expensive in two ways.  First, it adds a 10% fee bonus for some Medicare patients, which Hennessey says will almost certainly be temporary.  Secondly, it expands Medicare eligibility to people at 150% or less of the poverty line in income, including for the first time childless adults.  Instead of reforming an entitlement that already is headed for collapse, Obama plans on expanding it.

Read more at Keith’s blog.  By the time you get to the end where he concludes, “I strongly oppose this bill,” you’ll wonder why everyone else doesn’t already.

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