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Current News in the Political Arena

Sally Pipes on recent political happenings:

Excerpts from:  'REFORM' WILL COST US MORE FOR LESS'  New York Post, Jul 20, 2009

Elsewhere, Elmendorf was just as direct, telling the senators, "The legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's caustic response was to suggest that Elmendorf try running for Congress. Plainly, the politicians can neither make tough choices nor tell the truth.

The consequences of the current plans for the nation are on display in a laboratory called Massachusetts. All the ingredients save the government-run health-care option have been in place for more than three years now in the Bay State: Medicaid is expanded. A public bureaucracy runs an insurance exchange that sets policy and brokers insurance.

Employers have a "pay or play" mandate. Individuals must spend up to 10 percent of pre-tax income to buy insurance or face hefty fines. Insurance companies can't say no due to health status. Government subsidies are available for households of four with incomes up to $66,000.

Massachusetts even has the delusional politicians. "My state was able to put a plan in place that got everybody health insurance," said ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, the plan's father, on "Meet the Press" in late June.

The reality in Massachusetts is quite different. The plan immediately exploded costs. Universal coverage hasn't been achieved, and never will be, on account of the exemptions for affordability. The majority of newly insured were simply added to taxpayer-supported plans. Taxes were raised almost immediately, with smokers plopping down another $1 a pack for the cause.

It's not even clear that the most needy have benefited. Many, grouse advocates for the poor, simply traded free care funded by a state pool for an insurance policy that primary-care doctors don't want to accept, because it pays them so little for providing care.

The state is still spending millions on free care, yet safety-net hospitals are feeling the pinch of lower reimbursement from Medicaid-level rates. Boston Medical Center is suing the state, arguing that it will have to close its doors if things don't change.

Health plans report ominous signs as well. The CEO of a major insurer notes that some people are clearly gaming the system by signing up for insurance when they get sick, getting treatments covered and then dropping coverage.

The Bay State's system can't keep going as is. An official commission recently recommended that the state radically change how doctors and hospitals are paid, moving to global budgets and per-person rather than per-procedure reimbursement. In other words, the next step is a brave new world of staff-model HMOs and single-payer, government-run health care.

That's the logical end point of the path that Congress is trying to make us all walk. Our care will be rationed, and we will face long waiting lists. Medicaid for everyone.