- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Time is ticking for Democrats to claim some kind of victory on health care legislation, as polls show a public increasingly disillusioned with what is being passed off as “reform.” So now Democrats are trying to rename the public option in the hope no one will notice.

In fact, their new “compromise” is, if anything, a compromise with the furthest-left Democrats who wanted the even more unpopular single-payer system. No longer will we hear the words “public option” or “government option” coming from Senate Democrats. The latest terminology is “Medicare buy-in.”

The proposal, created by moderate and liberal Democrats who cannot agree on what to call a public option, would allow Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to enroll in the seniors program. The trickily named Medicare proposal gives cover to those moderate Democrats, who can claim they did not vote for a public option and only voted to expand Medicare to others.

The problem is, Medicare is collapsing, and adding more costs won’t help matters. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that Medicare will be bankrupt in 2017, when it will cost more than $700 billion - and that’s a timid prediction. It already costs $400 billion a year. The Medicare trustees say the program has $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Seniors already have trouble finding doctors who will accept the government insurance. Federal cost-cutting has slashed payments to doctors so much that they lose money every time they see a Medicare patient. Those costs get shifted to other patients with private insurance. Adding 34 million to 36 million new Americans into the system will only make doctors more scarce for those already in the program and increase the burden that gets dumped onto private plans.

It is not a surprise that prominent health care groups already are decrying this proposal. The Mayo Clinic’s Jeffrey O. Korsmo issued a statement saying, “Expanding the Medicare system to persons 55-64 years old would ultimately hurt patients by accelerating the financial ruin of hospitals and doctors across the country.” Remember, Democrats cite the Mayo Clinic as a model for the nation.

What’s truly daunting is that activists don’t even try to hide their attempted government takeover of the health care system. In response to the proposal to expand Medicare, an elated Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, said: “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.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, argues that this so-called compromise will “transform patients from sources of revenue over which providers compete to attract and serve … into sources of cost for the government to avoid and shunt off and treat as cheaply as possible.” Actually, Mr. Roberts doesn’t go far enough. At least patients who get treated like costs will still be treated by doctors. Who knows how many Americans under the program won’t be able to find doctors at all.

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