It looks like gridlock will be the norm in Washington for the next few years. And that just might be a good thing.
While multiple news outlets have declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election, Republicans seem likely to control the Senate by one or two seats, as long as they prevail in at least one of the runoff elections in Georgia in January.
Divided government should mean that Biden’s healthcare agenda is dead on arrival. But that doesn’t mean that Biden and his fellow Democrats in the House will not try to push the Senate to act.
Republicans will have to stand firm against Biden’s plan to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 from the current 65. That proposal would bring an additional 23 million people into the program at a cost of $200 billion over the next decade. Never mind that Medicare’s Part A hospital insurance trust fund is already set to run out of money before Biden’s term ends.
Republicans must also resist the temptation to throw yet more money at Obamacare, as the Democratic-controlled House and a Biden administration will no doubt ask them to.
Biden has proposed basing federal premium subsidies on the cost of more generous gold plans, rather than silver plans as under the current law. He’d also make people with incomes above 400% of the federal poverty level (nearly $105,000 for a family of four) eligible for taxpayer-subsidized coverage by capping their contribution toward their premiums at 8.5% of one’s income.
Biden’s own campaign pegged the cost of his healthcare plan at $750 billion over 10 years. It’s hard to see how the country can afford that kind of spending commitment after the budget deficit reached an all-time record this year.
A Republican Senate will no doubt face pressure from Democrats in the House and the executive branch, not to mention the news media, to play ball on healthcare. For the sake of taxpayers and ordinary patients, they must hold fast.
Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.