Dems retreating on healthcare

A $4 trillion price tag will certainly cause some politicians to hit reverse, as The Hill reports today on health care.  The ObamaCare proposals working through the House and Senate took big hits as the CBO released its calculations of the cost of the parts of the proposal that were complete.  Now Democrats have delayed releasing any more of the plan, apparently unwilling to immediately add to the cost projections:

Congressional Democrats and the White House are scrambling to regain their footing after a series of setbacks has stalled political momentum to reform the nation’s healthcare system. …

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee postponed the markup of its healthcare reform bill by one day, to Wednesday. On the eve of that markup, the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce publicly ripped the bill.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) initially planned to release his bill Wednesday, but he has pushed back his timetable because of cost estimate concerns.

“Will we have something out tomorrow? Not sure,” Baucus said Tuesday. “Thursday or probably Friday,” he added.

Perhaps more importantly, the unity that Democrats touted earlier this year has cracked. As conservatives lambaste Democrats, liberal healthcare groups are not rushing to their defense because so many questions about the legislation have not been answered.

Republicans have a great opening here, as the Democrats appear completely unprepared for the mammoth costs associated with ObamaCare.  The same lack of realization doomed the Clinton effort in 1993-4 as well.  The Democrats tried to impose a massive reorganization of the health-care industry on a nation that clearly didn’t want it, at a cost we were clearly not prepared to pay.  The end result?  A massive loss in Congress for the Democrats as the country made Clinton pay for his overreach.

Supposedly, all of the Hope and Change would make 2009 different from 1993, but so far, it looks like a replay.  Obama has outsourced the development of the plan to Congress, but it’s generating the same problems for the Democrats as it did before.  It would cost far too much, especially as deficits skyrocket from other Obama spending initiatives.  Baucus tried fighting back against the perception of expanding deficits, but in the process underscored the chaotic nature of Democratic efforts:

Baucus disputed speculation that his bill attracted a score of more than $1.5 trillion. “That reflects the policy of almost two weeks ago. It doesn’t reflect the savings that are also in the bill,” he said.

The “policy of almost two weeks ago”?  The CBO scored what it had in front of them.  If the policies have changed that radically in less than a fortnight, it reflects a flailing desperation that comes with the realization that the Democrats are repeating history, only with Congress playing the role of Hillary Clinton.  They have little clue as to the eventual composition of ObamaCare.  Instead of rationally building a reform bill, they’re reacting to the scandals of the costs and pinballing on policy.

The Republicans will have their reform proposal before the Democrats, thanks to the disarray on the Left.  That will prove embarrassing for an administration that supposedly put this as its highest priority.

Meanwhile, the Administration hasn’t been completely absent from the work on the bill — but their contribution may hurt more than it helps.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried explaining that a public plan would help competition, but obviously doesn’t understand markets or competition:

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.

“I think there is a lot of understanding that the private market has really failed to provide affordable coverage to Americans,” Sebelius said. The industry has had “a lot of opportunities” to get rid of coverage restrictions and other unpopular policies, Sebelius said, and really “hasn’t served Americans very well.”

Sebelius apparently doesn’t understand that markets provide competition, and government stifles it.  This clueless statement assumes that the “private market” is a single entity rather than a series of competitors working in a government-regulated market, competing for customers.  If competition exists between the government and the “private market” as a monolithic entity, the government will prevail — which is exactly the argument Obama’s critics have made in casting the public option as a Trojan horse for single-payer nationalization.  This statement couldn’t be more idiotic if Joe Biden had said it.