Health Care Summit: Pipes sees no lasting impact

Washington D.C. Examiner, February 25, 2010

To the surprise of virtually no one, President Obama’s health reform summit did little to change the course of the healthcare debate. Although the president claimed that he was interested in incorporating Republican ideas into his reform plan, he acknowledged that he didn’t know if “these gaps can be bridged.”

That sentiment was clear earlier this week, when Obama released his 11-page blueprint for health reform. The plan is little more than a retread of the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. By refusing to deviate from the basics of the congressional reform package, the president has jeopardized any chance of attracting bipartisan support and set the stage for a parliamentary showdown over the use of reconciliation to ram a final bill through the Senate.

ObamaCare’s potential impact on the nation’s financial health is sobering.

The president asserts that his plan will cost a meager $950 billion over ten years. But the eventual price tag will likely be twice as high.

In his newly released plan, President Obama managed to one-up congressional Democrats in the Bad Idea Department by calling for a new “Health Insurance Rate Authority,” which would review premium increases and decide whether they were “unreasonable and unjustified.” Conveniently, unreasonable and unjustified are not defined. If Obama’s new insurance czars determined that premiums were too high, they could force insurers to lower their rates, provide rebates, or otherwise act to make insurance more “affordable.”

The president and congressional Democrats realize that they don’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Their only hope of legislative salvation is the “budget reconciliation” process, which is normally reserved for, well, budget matters — not for wholesale reinventions of 17.3 percent of the American economy.

Abusing the reconciliation process may backfire. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 52 percent of Americans oppose using reconciliation to pass the Democrats’ health reform plan. Even worse for the president and his allies, only a quarter of Americans think that Congress should approve a bill similar to the ones the House and Senate has worked on for the past year.

The president may have thought that he could win over his opponents with a silver-tongued performance at today’s summit. It was not to be. With his options dwindling by the day, President Obama should cut his losses and start over.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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