- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

END OF THE ROAD

“It didn’t take long to run into an ‘uh-oh’ moment when reading the House’s ‘health care for all Americans’ bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal,” Investor’s Business Daily says in an editorial.

“When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee,” the newspaper said.

“It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of ‘Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage,’ the ‘Limitation On New Enrollment’ section of the bill clearly states: ‘Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day’ of the year the legislation becomes law.

“So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised - with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers. …

“What wasn’t known until now is that the bill itself will kill the market for private individual coverage by not letting any new policies be written after the public option becomes law.”

COBURN’S MOVE

Sen. Tom Coburn is a physician who until recently still went home to Oklahoma to deliver babies. He believes Congress should weigh the dangers of a nationalized health system much more seriously than it has,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“In the tradition of someone using a 2x4 to win the attention of a mule, [Wednesday] he successfully pressed the Senate Health Committee to approve his idea of requiring members of Congress themselves to enroll in whatever ‘public plan’ is passed to compete with private insurance companies,” Mr. Fund said.

” ‘Let’s demonstrate leadership - and confidence in the system - by requiring that every member of Congress go into it,’ Mr. Coburn told his colleagues as they were marking up the health care proposal championed by Sen. Ted Kennedy. His idea wasn’t exactly greeted warmly by many public plan supporters. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, responded: ‘I don’t know why we should require ourselves to participate in a plan that no one else needs to participate in. This bill goes to great lengths to show that the choice is there for everybody.’

“But Mr. Coburn disagreed, saying his reading of the 1,000-page health care bill convinced him that everyone would end up being forced into the public plan as private insurance carriers were squeezed out of the market by mandates and regulations. Therefore, if Congress decides a government-run health plan is good enough for the American people, it should be willing to put itself under its care umbrella.

“By a 12 to 11 margin, the Senate Health Committee agreed. Sen. Chris Dodd, the committee’s acting chairman, and Sen. Kennedy were absent from the committee but sent in proxy votes in favor. Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski was the only other Democrat to back the measure. Every Republican save for New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg voted in favor of the Coburn mandate.

“Obviously, many members of Congress - who are used to a generous and flexible set of health benefits - have no intention of letting the Coburn mandate become law. They will undoubtedly try to strip it from the bill at some point, in a conference committee between the two houses if necessary. But for now it is embedded in the bill and any overt attempt to remove it would be met with howls of public outrage.”

FAST TALKER

“Some statements are inherently unbelievable. Such as: ‘I am an official of the government of Nigeria, and I would like to deposit $60 million in your bank account.’ Or: ‘I’m Barry Bonds, and I thought it was flaxseed oil.’ And this new one: ‘I’m Barack Obama, and I favor more competition in health insurance,’ ” Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman writes.

“That, however, is the claim behind his support of a government-run health insurance plan to give consumers one more choice. The president says a ‘public option’ would improve the functioning of the market because it would ‘force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest.’

“He has indicated that while he is willing to discuss a variety of remedies as part of health insurance reform, this one is non-negotiable. House Democrats, not surprisingly, included the government plan in the 1,000-page bill they unveiled Tuesday,” Mr. Chapman said.

“It will come as a surprise to private health insurance providers that they have not had to compete up till now. Nationally, there are some 1,300 companies battling for customers. Critics say in many states, one or two insurers enjoy a dominant position. But market dominance doesn’t necessarily mean insufficient competition. …

“There are reasons, though, to think that the president’s real enthusiasm is not for competition but for government expansion. Free-market advocates want to foster competition by letting consumers in one state buy coverage offered in other states. If WellPoint has more than half the business in Indiana, why not let Indiana residents or companies go to California or Minnesota to see if they can find options that are cheaper or better?

“But the administration and its allies show no interest in removing that particular barrier to competition. Maybe that’s because it would reduce the power of state regulators to boss insurance companies around.”

CARTER THE GREAT

“Leave it to Chris Matthews, a former speechwriter to Jimmy Carter, to actually commemorate the 30th anniversary of the former president’s infamous ‘malaise’ speech,” the Media Research Center’s Geoffrey Dickens writes at www.mrc.org.

“On Wednesday’s ‘Hardball,’ Matthews invited on his former bosses from the Carter White House, former speechwriter and now New Yorker senior editor Hendrick Hertzberg and former aide Gerald Rafshoon, to mark the event and claim that Carter was vindicated by history as Matthews proudly asserted Carter was ‘Dead on,’ about ‘putting on a sweater, lowering the thermostat,’ to solve the energy crisis. And Hertzberg did Matthews one better by proclaiming Carter a ‘prophet.’ …

“Later on in the segment, Matthews turned to the transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama as he determined: ‘It took Bush to make us see the importance of an Obama. … Rick, what do you think about Obama coming in after, a sophisticated Obama coming in after a different kind of, an incurious president like Bush?’ This led Hertzberg to liken Obama to Carter which, at least in his mind, was a compliment to the current president.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected] .com.

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