Yuval Levin


Ben Nelson caves on taxpayer funding of abortion

From a new piece my colleague Yuval Levin and I have over on the Weekly Standard website:

Now that Senator Nelson has announced his intention to vote to end debate on the Reid bill, it's worth looking at whether his actions match his words....

The new Reid language that Senator Nelson now finds acceptable would allow federal subsidies to flow to plans that cover elective abortions in the insurance exchanges. Senate Democrats try to create the impression that only the enrollees' premiums will pay for the abortion coverage. But it's an artificial bookkeeping exercise. Taxpayer funding would support the same insurance policies that pay for abortions. Senator Nelson is touting the fact that states can enact laws which prohibit elective abortions in the exchanges (the so-called "opt out"), but that was already permissible under the previous Reid language. And in any event a state can't protect its taxpayers from financing abortions beyond its borders. Senator Nelson's "compromise" leaves Nebraska's voters entirely vulnerable to paying for California's and New York's abortions.

posted by James C. Capretta | 6:45 pm
Tags: Ben Nelson, Harry Reid, abortion, Yuval Levin
File As: Health Care

From Awful to Worse

In the new Weekly Standard, I have a piece co-written with my New Atlantis and EPPC colleague Yuval Levin. We discuss how Harry Reid's latest proposal is even worse than his original one. An excerpt:

Apparently, in exchange for dropping the "public option," moderate Senate Democrats have tentatively agreed to open up Medicare to people age 55 to 64 (retirees can currently sign up for it at age 65). In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it's a solution to Reid's political problem, not to the nation's health care financing crisis. Moderate Senate Democrats don't want to vote for anything called a "public option," but some of Reid's more liberal colleagues won't give up the dream of marching toward a single payer health care system. So he has offered up an even more direct path to such a system, but given it a different name and frame than the "public option."...

According to the Census Bureau, only 4.3 million people age 55 to 64 were uninsured in 2008. But the total population in this age range was 34.3 million--so the Medicare buy-in is not a means to help the uninsured but a means to socialize the health insurance of a vast swath of the public.

Initially, a voluntary Medicare program might attract only a small number of enrollees, especially because those who opt in would be required to pay the full premium. But over time, employers would likely find it convenient to put their early retirees into Medicare to shed some of their costs, providing only wraparound coverage as they do for retirees over 65. Once the opt-in is established, moreover, pressure would build for Congress to ensure "premiums" are affordable. Directly or indirectly, the government would find ways to subsidize enrollment. If established, a Medicare option for the 55- to 64-year-old population would quickly become the default option for the entire age group, and a case for further lowering the age of eligibility would emerge.

And when that happens, those who have fought all year against a new government-run insurance plan will have lost the battle, and those seeking means of actually cutting the growth of health care costs will pretty much have lost the war. The Reid bill already assumes a 15 million-person jump in enrollment in Medicaid, bringing the total enrollment to 60 million Americans. If 20 to 30 million new people end up on Medicare, on top of Medicare's current 45 million enrollees, then more than one-in-three Americans would be covered by government-funded health insurance. A single-payer health care system would be all but inevitable.

The entire piece is here.

Meanwhile, I recently discussed the unfolding Senate process in an interview with The New Ledger; you can hear the podcast here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 11:09 am
Tags: Medicare, Harry Reid, Senate, Yuval Levin
File As: Health Care

ObamaCare: Worse Than You Think

Tevi Troy and I co-authored a piece for the current edition of National Review on the emerging health care plans in Congress. Although much has already been written about the structural flaws of these plans — their immense costs and excessive reliance on governmental control — their details are just as worrisome. Indeed, the more the public learns about what these plans would actually do if passed, the less they will like them. That article is available here.

Also this week, Yuval Levin and I have a piece in the Weekly Standard. In it, we point out that the costs of the bills now being considered in Congress are much higher than advertised because tens of millions of low- and middle-income Americans would be forced to sign up for costly job-based insurance, with no additional financial support from the government. That will create tremendous pressure on Congress to extend premium subsidies to even more families, which will drive costs well above current projections. Moreover, the Obama administration's main cost-control idea — a new commission for setting Medicare payment policy — is not really a new idea at all. The current system for paying physicians under Medicare was designed by just such an expert panel twenty years ago and it has been a disaster. It was supposed to encourage and reward general practitioners, but it actually drove many new doctors to become specialists instead of primary care physicians. You can read the full article here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 4:50 pm
Tags: Tevi Troy, ObamaCare, Yuval Levin, cost control, Medicare
File As: Health Care

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