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Health Care Hangover

March 22, 2010

(Updated below the fold)

Yes, the nation has been hit by the atomic bomb of health-care reform and I have to say something.  It’s been the 500-pound elephant in the room of the Observatory over the past week, and now that it’s finally over, I guess I’ll have to acknowledge it.  There are basically two emotions that conservatives have been expressing this morning as a result of the overhaul passing this weekend: rage and hopeless optimism.  Bart Stupak, the “centrist”, “pro-life” Democrat, was called a “baby killer”, Rush Limbaugh called Democrats “bastards” on the air, and several state attorney generals are filing lawsuits to have the bill (excuse me, law) deemed unconstitutional because of the individual mandate (that’s deem like the Court does, not deem as in Demon Pass).  Because I’m pessimistic enough to be pretty certain that there’s nothing we can do for this not to happen, I’m not even going to waste any energy getting riled up.  I’m almost glad just because we get to talk about something else now.  That said, the showing that the “pro-life” Democratic bloc put up in the House was drastically poor.  They caved because of an executive order?  Really?  That’s reassuring.  But it’s not all that’s bad about this.

If you haven’t had your Zoloft yet today, take it before you read this paragraph.   Here’s what’s wrong with this law: The architects of the bill catastrophically failed, aside from the half-assed attempts to cut Medicare, to address the issues that are actually screwed up in the American health-care system: the radical decline of out-of-pocket costs, which are only enhanced by defensive medicine as a product of medical litigation, that makes us spend more per person on health care than any other country in the world.  There is zero incentive produced by this law for consumers buy catastrophic coverage except for the excise tax on high-cost plans which doesn’t kick in for another eight years, when this President will be long out of office.  If you’re thinking that those politicians in power in 2018 will be more inclined to go get a beer with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than to enact a new tax on a significant portion of the population, then you and I are speaking the same language (something that also applies to the “doc fix”).  Scrap both of those, and the bill isn’t even deficit-neutral over the next ten years anymore.  Not to mention that it’s probably not even paid for with both of those things included.  It’s just spending.

And it’s spending on health-care coverage, whose growth will not be slowed by this law, for a huge amount of people.  If there’s anything Medicare has taught us, it’s that you can’t take away people’s health insurance once you’ve given it to them.  That’s why I think it is impossible to repeal what will be our new health-care system in four years.  Maybe Republicans can win the next two elections and try to repeal in 2013, but do you really, really have any confidence in their ability to get that done?  Me neither.  Therefore, I’m taking a pass on all these comments from the Polyannas in the conservative blogosphere.  Bill Kristol is just flat-out in denial:

Last night’s victory was the culmination of Obama’s health care effort, which has been his version of  Napoleon’s Russia campaign. He won a short-term victory, but one that will turn out to mark an inflection point on the road to defeat, and the beginning of the end of the Democratic party’s dominance over American politics. Last night was Obama’s Borodino. Obama’s Waterloo will be November 6, 2012.

That’s just wrong.  The Democratic Party’s dominance over American politics will remain for the rest of the time that there is a United States of America.  Entitlement repeal is impossible.  Even it’s it better for you, better for everybody else, and better for the country.  A sobering thought for a sobering day.

UPDATE:  Okay, maybe that was a little morose.  I’ll give you something to cheer you up: if Medicare does end up being cut in any shape form or fashion due to this law, then maybe in the future we won’t have to cut our defense spending as much as we would have otherwise had to in order to compensate for the the deficits produced.  I’ll drink to that!

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