- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This holiday season, the Democrats are making a list and checking it twice: trillions in new spending, $500 billion in new taxes, $500 billion in Medicare cuts, and higher health insurance premiums.

Wait! Higher health insurance premiums?

When President Obama addressed Congress in September, he pledged that health care reform would “slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses and our government.” But congressional Democrats must not have been listening: Their legislation actually increases Americans’ health insurance premiums.

The bill introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid fails to meet the president’s test. Premiums for individuals purchasing their own health insurance will increase by as much as 13 percent, according to recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Employees of small and large businesses would continue to see unsustainable premium increases of 5 percent to 6 percent yearly despite the legislation.

A study using actual claims data by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman shows an even worse impact. Premiums would increase on average by 54 percent, or $3,300 per family. In our states, Arizona and Virginia, premiums would increase by a whopping 72 percent for individuals and families. Premiums for small businesses would increase by 20 percent.

Study after study (now including the just-released analysis by the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) conclude that the Democrats’ plan would make it even harder for Americans to afford their current coverage. Only in Washington is this called “reform.”

Republicans have proposed step-by-step solutions that will reduce Americans’ health insurance premiums. The House Republican alternative, for example, would lower premiums for individuals, families and employers. Based upon the CBO’s calculations, we believe that premiums for families purchasing coverage on their own would be $3,000 less than the cheapest premium under the House-passed bill.

Here are just a few ways costs can be reduced. We should curb frivolous lawsuits through real medical liability reform. We should allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, so they can shop for affordable coverage that best suits their health care needs.

Instead of more Washington command and control, we should encourage states to design innovative strategies that improve the affordability of coverage and guarantee access to coverage for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. We should allow small business health plans, so small businesses can band together and strengthen their purchasing power, like large corporations, when purchasing insurance. And, we should make it easier for people to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and permit people to use their HSAs to pay premiums.

At every turn, the Democrats’ solution is more government, even a government-run insurance company and a requirement that all Americans purchase government-approved insurance. The Reid bill would control every aspect of how your health insurance works. The huge cuts in Medicare, massive new entitlements and increasing pressure to stop escalating costs would eventually require the rationing of care.

This would mark an unprecedented change in the relationship between the individual and the state. To use the words of the classical economist Adam Smith, this heavy-handed control puts governments in a position where “to support themselves they are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.”

This is not the kind of health care reform Americans are wishing for this holiday season. They want health care reform to lower, not raise, health insurance premiums. The Republican plan would lower premiums. The Democrats’ plan would raise premiums. It is pretty clear which one Americans’ would prefer to find under their Christmas tree.

Sen. Jon Kyl is an Arizona Republican. Rep. Eric Cantor is a Virginia Republican.

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