The health care bill that President Obama signed last week bears little resemblance to the reform package he once touted from the campaign trail.
With the final legislative product in hand, it's worth evaluating how it compares to the promises Mr. Obama made to voters regarding the plan's cost, its features and the reform process itself. The difference between then and now couldn't be more stark.
Candidate Obama repeatedly assured the public that his health care plan would cost between $500 billion and $650 billion. This modest amount was to be covered entirety by discontinuing the George W. Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year.
Today, we know that Obamacare will cost at least double that amount. The basic price tag is $940 billion over 10 years, to which one must add the $208 billion "doc fix." This adjustment to the reimbursement doctors receive under Medicare was separated out from the main package to hide Obamacare's true cost.
Obviously, eliminating the Bush tax cuts isn't what's going to cover these enormous sums. Obamacare must cut Medicare and raise taxes on high-quality health insurance, medical devices, drugs and insurance companies. These increases will hit anyone who gets sick or buys insurance, regardless of income. So much for the promised "middle-class tax cut."
Mr. Obama is still trying to hide the extent of the bait-and-switch. During the campaign he said, "If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing.... You keep your plan; you keep your doctor." While he repeated this claim in a speech in Iowa last week, he also reluctantly admitted when questioned more closely that, yes, people may well lose their plan or their doctor.
Even aspects of reform that candidate Obama sharply criticized in a 2008 primary debate with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have become law. Mr. Obama claimed he was offended by the idea that every American should be forced to buy a government-approved health policy or face a fine. "When Clinton says mandate, it's not a mandate on government - it's a mandate on individuals," he said. "... In some cases, people are paying fines, which means they can't afford premiums, which means they don't have coverage. ... Both of us seek to get to universal health care. I have a substantive difference ... on how to get there."
The "differences" between Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's health care plans have disappeared. Households without a government-approved health care plan face a fine of $2,085. The promised transparency in the legislative drafting process also has disappeared despite the pledge, "These negotiations will be on C-SPAN." A one-day presidential infomercial hardly counts.
President Obama's deals were cut behind closed doors without input from the public or even congressional Republicans - and for good reason. Lawmakers rushed through a plan that bears no resemblance to what voters once were promised.