- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Health care according to Max Baucus has finally arrived. It’s the most ballyhooed event since the debut of “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has toiled for months in search of a bipartisan vehicle to move health care reform forward. As of now, this is the chairman’s bill and no one else’s. Not one Republican has signed on. While the intentions of the chairman should be applauded, his final product contains most of the same fatal flaws that are part of all of the other efforts produced so far.

First, the good news: The chairman’s bill contains no government-run insurance plan, the so-called public option. It precludes federal funding for abortion services and prohibits new benefits for illegal immigrants. It is less expensive than the other plans and at least purports to be deficit neutral.

But …

Mr. Baucus’ plan adds more than $800 billion to the federal budget and increases a variety of taxes in the process. Lest we repeat this too often, we are running nearly a $2 trillion deficit this year and will double the national debt in the next eight years. Now is not the time for expensive increases in federal responsibilities. Now is the time to cut back the bloated government that already is out of control.

The plan assumes major cuts in Medicare, which can only make an already shaky program more precarious. Our first goal must be to reform Medicare, not further cut provider payments.

His plan mandates that young, healthy citizens buy health insurance even if they don’t need it and don’t want it. Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government can do that? The Internal Revenue Service is authorized to fine you if you don’t have a plan acceptable to the federal government? What else can that be called other than a tax increase on young workers trying to establish themselves?

Most important, the Baucus plan does nothing to reduce private insurance costs. This is the No. 1 concern for Americans, but all of the Democrats’ bills guarantee the opposite. Is it too much to ask the sponsors to explain how adding millions of new consumers of health care can lower costs for everyone?

Make no mistake, the Baucus plan takes us down the same road as the other proposals, toward more federal involvement, more mandates, worsening state finances and more cost pressures on private-sector insurance. This is the best the Democrats can do. It will only get worse on the Senate floor and then in conference with the House. Despite the chairman’s best efforts, it should be easy for Republicans to say “no thanks” for this latest product.

Frank Donatelli is chairman of GOPAC, the center for training and electing the next generation of Republican leaders.

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