- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Betsy McCaughey reads massive health care bills so you don’t have to. New York’s former lieutenant governor, now chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, fired the torpedo that ultimately sank HillaryCare. While the sheer girth of that 1,431-page legislative juggernaut intimidated nearly everyone, Ms. McCaughey devoured it. Her resulting January 1994 New Republic article unmasked HillaryCare’s previously overlooked warts and sores. The horror Ms. McCaughey revealed eventually spelled that initiative’s doom.

Ms. McCaughey has done it again. In a June 19 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed column, she dissected the 615-page draft of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s Affordable Health Choices Act. The Massachusetts Democrat’s bill is, essentially, the Senate’s version of ObamaCare. Ms. McCaughey’s “light reading” is scarier than a Stephen King novel:

c Congruent with the socialist zeitgeist of the George W. Bush-Obama years, Pages 10 and 11 empower the health and human services secretary to compel insurers to pay their customers rebates on their premiums based on “a percentage that the secretary shall by regulation determine.” This amount would reflect aggregated expenses on non-claims costs exceeding industry averages. Thus, the HHS secretary may determine health-insurance companies’ profit margins.

c Rather than simply compensate physicians for delivering medically necessary or advisable services, Page 58 creates a bureaucratic “payment structure” that provides “increased reimbursement or other incentives,” including “effective case management” and “medication and care compliance initiatives.”

c This bill establishes “shared responsibility payments” - surely the greatest euphemism ever for a far more ugly word: “tax.” Pages 104 and 105 amend the Internal Revenue Code so that anyone lacking “qualifying coverage” for any month in any tax year will face “tax liability” of “an amount equal to an amount” that the HHS secretary decrees can “accomplish the goal of enhancing participation in qualifying coverage.” Oddly enough, these new taxes would not apply to anyone “who is an enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.”

c While touting health care reform as a vital measure to which every American has a God-given right, Mr. Kennedy’s elaborate new medical scheme includes a trapdoor through which members of Congress may slither away after dark. On Page 114, it defines “qualified individuals” who must obey this law. Among them are those ineligible for the generous and choice-rich Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. This excludes current and retired members of Congress. How convenient!

Self-important Democrats handle Americans the way dog owners treat their pets - steak for Daddy and Alpo for Duke - only without the underlying love.

c Page 118 targets $33.95 billion to treat the “special medically underserved population,” including the homeless, public housing residents and “migratory and seasonal agricultural workers.” How much of this money will wind up treating illegal aliens?

c Page 353 calls for a new Prevention and Public Health Investment Fund budgeted at $10 billion per year through “fiscal year 2020, and each fiscal year thereafter.” Moreover, these sums “shall not be taken into account for purposes of any budget enforcement procedures including … the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act and budget resolutions for fiscal years during which appropriations are made from the Investment Fund.” In short, this creates yet another off-budget item that cannot be cut, and with no attendant revenue source. The proposed Retiree Reserve Trust Fund and CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Independence Fund also would sit off-budget as brand-new, untouchable, unfunded liabilities. Fiscal responsibility be damned!

c While I was perusing this bill online, the names of brand-new commissions, councils, and other bureaucracies virtually cascaded from my computer screen. Among them: the Affordable Health Benefit Gateways (one per state), Coordinating Committee on Women’s Health, Health Care Program Integrity Coordinating Council, National Oral Health Surveillance System, Office of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Research, and the Shared Decision Making Resource Centers.

Before America steps an inch closer to nationalized medicine, lawmakers and citizens alike should follow Betsy McCaughey’s lead and read this bill. Meanwhile, about the best one can say for Mr. Kennedy’s $1 trillion incarnation of ObamaCare is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $3.47 trillion version is even worse.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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