Worst Case Scenario for Health Care Reform

As Obama and the Democrats bribe senators in their slow march to 60 votes in the Senate, more and more details continue to come out. The picture isn’t pretty. First, there are the bribes:

— Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, in exchange for a “yes” vote on the 10-year, $871 billion package — received permanent and full federal aid for his state’s expanded Medicaid population;

— Louisiana got up to $300 million in Medicaid benefits;

— Vermont and Massachusetts got $1.2 billion in Medicaid money — a change that was described as a correction to the current system which exempts those two states because they have robust health care systems. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also boasted Saturday that he requested and won an investment worth between $10 and $14 billion for community health centers.

— Western states secured higher federal reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals that serve Medicare patients. The provision covers the low-population “frontier” states and applies to Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — the latter two states are both represented by two Republicans, but ended up as beneficiaries anyway since they qualify. The legislative language defines frontier states as states where at least 50 percent of the counties have fewer than six people per square mile.

— Florida, New York and Pennsylvania — where five of six senators are Democrats — will have their seniors’ Medicare Advantage benefits protected, even as the program sees massive cuts elsewhere.

— Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., reportedly secured expanded Medicare coverage for victims of asbestos exposure in a mine in Libby, Mont.

— Connecticut is receiving $100 million for a “health care facility” affiliated with an academic health center at a university that contains the state’s only “public academic medical and dental school.”

Then there are the actual policies. For starters, it now appears that the Medicare savings in the bill which most everyone believe will never come to pass, have been double-counted to make the “savings” contained in the bill look bigger.

All of this adds up to Robert Samuelson’s calling the Senate health care bill “a bad bargain because….health benefits are overstated, long-term economic costs understated. The country would be the worse for this legislation’s passage. What it’s become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama’s self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of ‘universal coverage.’ What it’s not is leadership.”

Hopefully a left-right coalition of liberal Democrats and Republicans, spurred on by the American people who are repulsed by the process and its result, will convince the House to kill this incredibly bad legislation.

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