- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A good first step to start the White House health care summit would be for President Obama to scrap the stalled Senate and House legislation and start over by urging agreement on targeted and bipartisan reform that places patients and seniors first rather than higher taxes and bigger government.

The president, especially after the political earthquake in Massachusetts, where Republican Scott Brown won the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat after campaigning against the current proposed legislation, ought to declare that the radical Senate and House versions are dead. The summit will be useless and could increase Mr. Obama’s unpopularity if it turns into simply a dog-and-pony public relations show in which the president persists in a “my way or the highway” approach. The president, to show good faith, also ought to criticize any attempted legislative sleight of hand by congressional Democrats to ram the current health care bills through a reconciliation process that shuts out Democrats and Republicans with opposing or different ideas.

Indeed, the summiteers ought to agree that young people without insurance still won’t buy it under the current bills. They can simply write checks for $750 (the heaviest fine for the uninsured in the Senate bill) every year and not buy a policy. Why pay between 2 percent and 10 percent of their household income for insurance before subsidies kick in? Remember that the legislation requires health insurers to take everyone and not raise rates based on pre-existing conditions. So the under-30 age group can obtain coverage when needed, having only shelled out $750 annually beforehand.

During the summit, Republicans also have a right to ask Mr. Obama if he still claims he won’t raise taxes on any couple making less than $250,000 a year and yet supports $20 billion in new taxes on medical devices and $80 billion on drugs. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warns that these taxes will be passed along to patients. (By the way, the AARP, supposedly looking out for seniors, has stabbed them in the back by endorsing the massive Medicare cut and these higher taxes.)

The American Seniors Association, with approximately 200,000 members nationwide, continues to have major concerns over any government-run plan that limits doctor-patient choice. Let’s hope the summit addresses that, as well as insurance security. There should be bipartisan agreement to make health insurance portable and less expensive by allowing Americans to shop for it across state lines and to price policies on the Internet.

There already seems to be broad bipartisan agreement that people who have broken the law by sneaking across our borders should be denied health care benefits. There just needs to be agreed-upon legislative language providing for 50-state verification and enforcement to demagnetize the magnet that draws illegal immigrants to sponge off overburdened hospitals and medical facilities.

Both parties also should be able to agree on reform language when it comes to reducing the cost of insurance. According to the CBO, the Republican House bill would actually reduce premiums by 5 percent to 8 percent in the individual market in 2016 and by 7 percent to 10 percent for small businesses. These reforms wouldn’t impose higher taxes, so moderate Democrats should be sympathetic.

Will Mr. Obama finally admit that the current Democratic bills don’t really lower costs? The current legislation is about imposing federal power over everything from doctors to health insurance. That’s why even a lot Democrats who voted for Mr. Obama haven’t been able to swallow such bitter socialized medicine.

Stuart Barton is president of the American Seniors Association.

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