Our previous analysis of the chaotic Senate health care process noted the obvious: It’s simply impossible to believe that Congress has the wisdom to create, in 2,000 pages, the best possible system of health insurance and medical services delivery.
Even if one is blinded by faith and believes an elite dozen can huddle in a Washington conference room and charter command-and-control bureaucracies that will achieve better results than the private sector, one would still have to overlook the tragically comical process of politically motivated deal-making on the Senate floor!
As if to help us demonstrate the absurdity of it all, Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader and principle author of the Health Care bill hopped in front of the cameras late Tuesday night to announce “a broad compromise.” It seems ten Senators had just cranked two new schemes that would be major alterations to the bill written by the elite dozen in the conference room.
- Make Medicare available for “buy in” to people as young as 55. (The current minimum age is 65.)
- Replace the so-called “public option,” a government owned and operated insurance company, with some sort of non-profit but privately owned contrivance.
On Monday The Reid bill partially funded new health care entitlements and bureaucracy by further reducing the already below-market fees Medicare pays to doctors and hospitals, a change that would surely result in fewer doctors being willing to accept Medicare patients at all.
But on Tuesday, if it meant another vote or two, Senator Reid was ready to accept as many as 30 million new people into the Medicare program! Astounding!
Public Option to Medicare to Single Payer?
The most liberal faction of Congress favors “single payer” health care, meaning everyone’s medical services would be paid for by government. The liberals would prohibit private insurance and even prohibit paying cash for services not covered by the government plan, or to jump ahead of a waiting list. The single payer faction has agreed to the Reid bill because it includes start-up of a government owned/operated insurance company called “public option” that in the future could be subsidized by taxpayers enabling it to under-price private insurance companies and drive them out of the health care market, creating a de facto single payer.
The second part of Reid’s “broad compromise” would replace the government owned/operated insurance company with some sort of non-profit, but privately owned institution. The details are not yet public.
This idea by itself should be a deal killer for the single payer supporters, without whose votes nothing can pass Congress. But appears they would accept expansion of Medicare, which is a single payer program for seniors. Apparently, they would stake their hopes for a single-payer future on a continuous expansion of Medicare until it covers the entire population, or everyone who isn’t already covered by some other government program.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, one of the most emphatic proponents of single payer, fired off a mass email applauding Medicare expansion:
Expanding Medicare is an unvarnished, complete victory for people like me. It’s the mother of all public options. We’ve taken something people know and expanded it. Never mind the camel’s nose, we’ve got his head and neck under the tent.
The details are still sketchy, but there is one remarkable element of the emerging plan: the expansion of the smart single-payer health care plan that serves over 43 million Americans—Medicare. Extending this successful program to those between 55 and 64, a plan I proposed in July, would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years and would perhaps get us on the path to a single payer model.
Reid has sent these ideas to the Congressional Budget Office for estimates of cost. There is no way to predict the next installment of this melodrama. But if any part of the Reid bill becomes law, federal bureaucracy and regulation will become the dominant force in every American’s health care.