"My colleagues, this is our opportunity to make history," Chairman Max Baucus implored last week as the Senate Finance Committee opened consideration of his bill. Politicians, in their most self-important moments, see themselves as instruments of national destiny. They yearn to be remembered as the architects and agents of great social and economic transformations. They want to be at the signing ceremony; they want a pen.One can almost envision Sen. Baucus in a powdered wig, white stockings and buckle shoes signing on in large fashion as John Hancock did with the Declaration of Independence.
One study "found that every year in America, lack of health coverage leads to 45,000 deaths," he told the committee. "No one should die because they cannot afford health care. This bill would fix that."Oh really?
But wait, there's more!
"These reforms would give Americans real savings," Baucus said. The Congressional Budget Office "tells us that the [insurance] rating reforms and exchanges in our proposal would significantly lower premiums in the individual market." As well, the bill wouldn't increase the budget deficit and "starts reducing the deficit within 10 years."How could anyone be against that?
Unfortunately, just having insurance doesn't automatically improve people's health. Sometimes more medical care doesn't really help. Sometimes people don't go to doctors when they should or follow instructions (take medicine, alter lifestyles).Say it ain't so!
Indeed, many people don't even sign up for insurance to which they're entitled. An Urban Institute study estimated that 10.9 million people eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2007 didn't enroll.Why would someone refuse FREE health insurance? Inquiring minds want to know.
And how about those 45,000 who died because they didn't have health insurance?
The 45,000 figure cited by Baucus is itself an unreliable statistical construct built on many assumptions. It's based on a study of 9,004 people ages 17 to 64 who were examined between 1988 and 1994. By 2000, 351 had died; of these, 60 were uninsured. The crude death rates among the insured (3 percent of whom died) and uninsured (3.3 percent) were within the statistical margin of error. After adjustments for age, income and other factors, the authors concluded that being uninsured raises the risk of death by 40 percent. They then extrapolated this to the entire population by two techniques, one producing an estimate of 35,327 premature deaths and another of 44,789.Oops!
OK, but we will still have lower health insurance premiums, right?
Here is what the CBO had to say about that.
"Premiums in the new insurance exchanges would tend to be higher than the average premiums in the current-law individual market -- again with other factors held equal -- because the new policies would have to cover pre-existing medical conditions and could not deny coverage to people with high expected costs for health care.""Higher than average premiums" because the NEW policies will have to cover pre-existing conditions and cannot deny coverage. Somehow this information has never passed the lips of the politicians who are promising lower, more affordable health care and health insurance.
So how many want to pay higher taxes to cover people who won't take advantage of "free" health insurance, higher health insurance premiums to cover pre-existing conditions and "no refusal" policies, and questionable improvement in health outcomes . . . just to satisfy the ego of their favorite politician?
Health care reform is a sham.
Smaller cars, bigger (more expensive) health insurance, Poppa Washington.