In the wee hours of Christmas Eve, 60 Senators passed a landmark health care bill. True to the partisan nature of politics in America, not a single Republican senator voted for the bill. Earlier in the week, the Senate also approved a $130 Billion increase in the Federal spending limit as a stop gap measure to keep funding in place for critical missions like the military fighting around the globe and normal program and government agencies requirements. These measures represent additional liabilities to the Country’s balance sheet at a time when it is already burdened by the cost of large and in some cases unfunded existing entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and social security. There seems to be a void in the reasoning of the Senators of both parties in their comprehension of the long term impact of excessive spending.
Prior to the vote on the health care bill, the Congressional Budget Office offered its analysis of the cost of the Senate proposal. In a surprise to many of the general public, but not so to the Democratic Senators, the CBO indicated that there had been double counting in the Democrats calculation that resulted in approximately $300 Billion greater costs of the bill over the 10 years it measured. Consequently, instead of what the Democrats had been saying was a bill that would reduce the budget by $170 Billion turns into a bill that will increase the deficit by $130 Billion. The report which came out a day before the vote on Thursday was ignored, and the bill was passed. Senator Byrd from West Virginia who arrived at the Senate in a wheel chair exclaimed that he was voting pro in honor of his deceased friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
In an interview this week with George Branche, a well known orthopedic surgeon whose father was also a surgeon, who practices in the D.C. area, Dr. Branche expressed his opinion that the proposed health care bills will, if enacted in their existing form,harmful to the medical profession. He noted that in his 20 years in practice, he has seen his revenue decrease by approximately half due to a large degree to cuts in Medicare reimbursements and a substantial rise in medical malpractice insurance coverage. He said that while he has never been sued, his annual premiums have skyrocketed over the years. He believes that the proposed changes to the health care system in America will reduce doctors’ revenue further, especially specialists like himself which will discourage individuals to enter the profession in the future. He concluded by saying that he did not recommend to his children that they pursue a career in medicine like he and his father did.
While there are provisions in the proposed legislation that are laudatory like the removal of pre existing conditions as a reason why coverage can be denied and subsidized health care for the 30 million uninsured in the country, there are 2 big issues that would give normal business people pause. The 1st is the enormous cost to the country of a bill that impacts nearly 20% of the economy. It does not take any student of history to know that the costs of entitlement programs of this scale increase over time, often much faster than the cost of living index. The 2nd is the further intrusion of government into health care with the potential for greater not less control in the future. Major business industry groups have now become openly vocal against the proposed changes.
With a heavy snow storm’s aftermath blanketing the Capitol, the white cover seemed to reflect as much the state of the weather as it did the empty void of a Congress that continues to spend beyond our means. The penalty will come in future years and likely will begin when the cost of our huge national debt grows exponentially when interest rates invariably rise. In the mean time, the Country will remain vulnerable to the countries that hold our debt like China who can use it as an economic and political weapon against America.