Obama’s forgotten health-care promises

The Baltimore Sun, December 16, 2009

The more details that emerge from health care reform plans coalescing and colliding on Capitol Hill, the more one wonders how President Barack Obama could possibly justify supporting any of them – much less signing one into law. Congressional Democrats are threatening to serve up legislation that would cause the president to break any number of pledges.

Remember this promise, given by then-candidate Obama in September 2008 at a speech in New Hampshire? “I can make a firm pledge,” he declared. “Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

Unfortunately, the Senate health care bill is loaded with new taxes, many of which would fall on middle- and working-class households. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, these new taxes and fees would soak the American taxpayer for an estimated $372 billion, including a “40 percent excise tax” on high-end health coverage of the kind enjoyed by many unions (no wonder, then, that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters criticized the bill on grounds that it would mean “a huge middle-class tax hike”).

The Nancy Pelosi-negotiated House bill is no better, amounting to a $700 billion tax hike, including a new income tax surcharge, new business taxes, a new tax on health savings accounts, and excise taxes on medical devices.

Guess who will pay for all these new taxes and fees? If you said “only the rich,” then I have some real estate on Mars to sell you.

What about the president’s oft-repeated promise that health care reform will not add to our already gargantuan budget deficit? As he told an audience at a health care town hall in Ohio this summer: “And that’s why I pledged that I will not sign health insurance reform – as badly as I think it’s necessary, I won’t sign it if that reform adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade – and I mean what I say.”

Yet as Jeffrey H. Anderson, director of the Benjamin Rush Society and senior fellow in Health Care Studies for the Pacific Research Institute writes, one version of the Senate health care bill would have raised the deficit “by 2.86 trillion dimes,” and yet still the president was a “visible and audible supporter.”

Or how about this promise, delivered by Mr. Obama in remarks to the American Medical Association on June 15: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

Not so fast: Many provisions in the Democrats’ health care plans, such as the so-called “public option,” would undermine the private insurance market, causing many to lose their health insurance coverage. Mr. Obama has also spoken approvingly of a Senate proposal that would have reportedly allowed people as young as 55 to buy into Medicare; unfortunately, such a plan would have created a “crowd out effect,” squeezing “out the availability of private coverage, including retiree coverage from a former employer,” according to The Heritage Foundation.

Whichever version (if any) of health care reform lands on Mr. Obama’s desk, there’s a good chance that it would 1) raise taxes, 2) explode the long-term budget deficit and 3) jeopardize private health care options, all in direct variance with Mr. Obama’s repeated pledges to the American people.

Which raises the question: Why would he sign it?

Matt Patterson, a Montgomery County resident, is a policy analyst for the National Center For Public Policy Research and a National Review Institute Washington Fellow. His e-mail is [email protected].

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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