Sunday, March 28, 2010

The health care reform bill is easy to repeal

Liberals have been saying for the past few days that once passed, entitlements can never be repealed. Of course, this is wrong, Medicare catastrophic was repealed, and liberals themselves are essentially repealing Medicare Advantage in the current bill to pay for the new entitlement. And Social Security and Medicare have been vulnerable to cuts in the past, to say nothing of how easy it has been to cut anti-poverty programs.

But let's analyze whether the current health care bill will be as popular as Medicare. Here's the major differences between this program and Medicare:

Medicare is an entitlement in which those who receive the benefit get something worth far more than what they paid in. Those who pay pay only a little bit, those who receive, receive something wonderful. That's why it's popular. How does the current health care bill measure up?

First, unless you qualify for a rather large subsidy, you aren't getting some great benefit. YOu are getting pretty much what you pay for. All the bill really does is make you buy insurance, and if you don't have the money to buy it, it gives you some help. So the only people really seeing a benefit are those who are poor to lower middle class.

However, the way the bill is written, the subsidies increase SLOWER than medical inflation. So the benefit is self-cutting. Poor Americans will start having trouble affording insurance very early on. Lower middle class Americans will start feeling the pinch soon as well. So unless Congress makes changes in by 2020, we'll be right back where we started: with 35 million uninsured. And paying a penalty. This is supposed to build political support for the program?

But that's not all. Health care reform has other losers: elderly people will have less access to doctors and hospitals because the bill cuts payment rates. The Medicare actuary estimated that 20% of hospitals would stop taking Medicare. Medicare Advantage essentially goes away. Elderly people do see the donut hole for part D close, but it's hard to believe that seniors would benefit from gutting part A in order to solidify Part D.

Let's face it. The only hard to kill entitlements are elderly entitlements. The elderly receive no benefit from this bill, in fact, they are primarily the ones paying for the bill. Unless Democrats decide to just not cut Medicare and let the deficit increase further, the elderly will favor repeal. And if the elderly want something, the elderly get it.

Ah, but there's more! Many employers are going to drop their insurance plans and put people into the exchanges. Others have already said their costs will increase under reform, and those costs will be passed to their employees. What will be the position of people who lost their employer health care on repeal of the bill?

It's really simple math. Medicare and Social Security are a benefit for the few, paid for by the many. The few get a great benefit, the many don't pay enough to get upset about it, and they figure they'll benefit when they get older anyway. The health care bill, by contrast, makes everyone pay so that everyone can benefit. But the way it's designed, more people will lose something than gain something, and the losers will lose more than most of the gainers gain.

So by my figuring, Republicans don't need to act fast. The longer this is in place, the more opposition will be built up against it. There will be a small faction of people, mostly non-voters, who benefit and will try to keep it, but the elderly, people on workplace insurance, the rich, and the lower middle class who will have a new obligation they can't afford, will support repeal.

Of course, the Democrats could have been lying this whole time and intend to do what they did with the doctor fix: constantly "fix" the bill, but not pay for those fixes. They had to pass something deficit neutral, but the fixes won't have to be. And I think they planned that all along.