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AS I SEE IT

Posted 3/24/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Sunday’s vote by the U.S. House of Representatives in passing new healthcare legislation was historic. After over a year of debate and controversy, the House set into motion legislation that could provide about 32 million Americans with health insurance coverage and provide protection for millions of other Americans against losing their coverage.
The House of Representatives vote was historic in several ways.
First, not since the passage of Social Security and Medicare has the U.S. Congress passed a piece of federal legislation that has been so nonpartisan and so against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.
Of the 219 representatives that voted in favor of the health care legislation, all were Democrats. Not one single Republican voted in favor of the legislation. The only bipartisan votes were the Democrats who voted with the Republicans in opposition to the legislation.
And second in the way of historic actions, President Obama and the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives literally snubbed their noses at the American public in passing the bill. According to a poll taken just two days prior to the House vote, 54 percent of Americans were in opposition to changes in the health care system stating that they believed that if the plan ultimately passed, the cost of health care would go up. And contrary to what the politicians were saying, the public believes that there is a very small likelihood that the federal government will be able to achieve their goal of  reducing the cost of care.
The vast majority of Americans have real concerns regarding what is happening in Washington, D.C. when it comes to health care reform because of all of the promises and payoffs that were made to get the votes needed to pass this legislation.
Americans are struggling to understand how extending health insurance to 32 million Americans, at a cost of a trillion dollars over 10 years, can be a deficit-reducing measure. They worry that the cuts in Medicare, as outlined in the plan, won’t result in less services.
And Americans are gravely concerned that the coverage mandates included in the bill will drive up health insurance premiums for both individuals and businesses. And the cost of the expanded coverage is going to be paid for by direct tax hikes on high income earners as well as indirect tax hikes on everyone else.
Once again, the American public seems to have a better read on reality than do the people that they elected to serve them in Washington, D.C.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the health care reform is pegged at $950 billion over 10 years, but that it could reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion. But the only way that the health care reform can either stay below the $950 billion cost figure or be able to reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion is by Congress being willing to hold their hands to the fire and do what they say they would do in passing the bill. And that is by following through on their major budget cuts, such as cutting $500 billion from Medicare. But, as taxpayers know all too well, the chance of Congress following through on slashing those benefits is slim.
So the total cost of health care reform is probably going to be much greater than what Rep. Pelosi stated and the reduction to the federal deficit is going to be much smaller.
According to former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, in reality the bill will add $562 billion to the deficit and cost 2½ times what is projected.
America is on the fast track to having health care reform. Whether or not the majority of Americans want what is coming down the track, the next stop is for the Senate to apply a few fixes to the bill and it will become the law with Obama’s signature.