Obama-Care Looks Like Hillary Care
The Wall St. Journal has a nice piece on what Obama Care will probably look like. They base it on what Obama has said, who he's probably picking to run Health and Human Services (Tom Daschle) and the policy blueprint making it's way around the staffers of the House Finance Committee.
Basically, the plan that appears to be coming together will be three pronged. The first, govenment regulation of the insurance industry to require all companies that sell health insurance to do it at a group rate. An expanded Medicare that competes against the private companies will also be part of that insurance pool. Everyone gets to chose their policy, but as many states do now, the Fed's will be telling the companies what they have to have in the policies.
Second, and employer mandate that a certain percentage of payroll must be spent on health care, or you'll get a tax penalty. As the Journal points out, that number has to be targeted correctly. If the penalty is too low, a lot of companies will just dump their coverage and pay the fine. Why not save some money if you can.
The reverse is also true, though. If the percentage is set too high companies will just shed jobs in the US and move them elsewhere. We already have the second highest corporate income tax of all industrialized countries, adding to that burden will cause some to leave.
The third the Journal devined from Max Baucus' policy blueprint. That is an individual mandate to buy insurance, or face a tax penalty for failing to. Obama campaigned against this, but if he wants the rest of the package, the guess of the Journal (and me) is that he'll cave to this demand.
For those who can't afford the insurance, a tax rebate will be given to help pay the cost. Who is considered to not be able to afford coverage? According to the Baucus blueprint, families making less than FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT of the federal poverty level, or about $85,000 a yearfor a family of four.
The reason for not getting to wonky on the details? Obama learned from Hillary. She brought in about 3 million "experts" from every possible interest group to help build her plan. Instead they ended up with a brawl in the White House and nothing getting done. Obama will limit the number of folks coming in to give ideas, and limit the amount of information that comes out, lest we get unruly about the details again.
There will be interst groups that do bitch. Unions will be the biggest. While they claim to love the idea of universal care, their members may balk at it; and then you'll have them asking for an exemption for collectively bargained benefits.
Obama say's he'll exempt small businesses from the mandate, but the level that equals "small" hasn't been set. Is it based on number of employees, gross income of the company? Who knows, and we probably won't until it gets to the floors Congress.
Baucus' plan gives no idea of what it will cost. "Conservative" estimates are about $150 billion a year. That's a joke folks, even if Katie Couric can say it with a straight face. Medicare, which only covers about 44 million people has a baseline budget number for 2009 of $420 BILLION. Somehow, for 1/3 that amount, we think we can double the number of people in the program, and more than likely triple it.
Tripling may actually be a conservative estimate, too. Consider that insurance companies will be asked to write group rate policies for everyone, and Obama has already said that he want's no pre-existing condition clauses. When you do the math on that, companies are going to walk from the business. Not being able to charge more to folks like me who are overweight, smoke, drink, and don't exercise means that they will have to jack up everyone's rates to cover us slobs. That means selling insurance suddenly becomes less profitable, if at all, and they'll start walking from the health coverage business.
If anyone doubts this, New Jersey provided a great example in the late 1980's and early 1990's with their auto coverage mandates. By the time the legislature there was done imposing restrictions on what could and couldn't be covered, and charged extra for, most of the big insurance companies just pulled out of the state.
That of course is the utopian vision of the left. Get rid of the private insurance companies, and just let the government handle health care all together. Seriously, considering how well they've done with Medicare and Medicaid why would anyone doubt their abilities to handle it for the rest of us, right?