Froma Harrop | Whipping Health Care Reform, in a Nice Way

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 09:13 By Froma Harrop, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed | name.

Following the attack against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and bystanders, Republicans put off action to scuttle the Democrats' health care reforms. The GOP House leadership is now back, determined to repeal a law that gives Americans health care security while cutting budget deficits -- but in a nice way.

"We can and should have a debate about the facts of the law and its records," said House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman. (Some may be under the impression that this field had already been plowed into dust.)

Anyhow, official projections of the reforms' impact do nothing to support Republican claims that the law will drive up federal deficits. Actually, they point the other way.

But with the brief intermission for mourning the victims in Tucson over, the show must go on. And a show it is. The Senate is highly unlikely to go along with the repeal, and the president would be sure to veto it.

About the facts.

"Dear Mr. Speaker:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reviewed H.R. 2, (which Republicans titled) the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, as introduced on January 5, 2011." So began CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf in a letter to Boehner.

The CBO is the nonpartisan,  scorekeeper for Congress. Its rather technocratic job is to look at legislation and project what it will cost and how it will affect the national debt.

In the letter, Elmendorf reminds Boehner that the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) "estimated that the March 2010 health care legislation would reduce budget deficits over the 2010-2019 period and in subsequent years; consequently, we expect that repealing that legislation would increase budget deficits."

Republicans have argued that the CBO didn't do the numbers right, but Elmendorf stands his ground. CBO has seen "no evidence to date" that the law "will yield overall budgetary effects that differ significantly from the ones that CBO and JCT projected earlier," he writes.

Enacting the repeal "would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012-2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion," Elmendorf adds. Another result would be 32 million fewer Americans with health coverage by 2019.

How is the health care law "job-killing"? The Republicans don't adequately explain. If the reforms were overturned, health care premiums paid by large employers would actually rise a bit. (Again, the CBO talking.) Premiums paid by small employers would be slightly higher or slightly lower.

The decidedly not-liberal Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal just released their 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. The list, a Heritage economist explained, "records countries' commitment to the free enterprise-capitalist system." This year, United States has dropped one place to No. 9.

It's instructive to note that the eight capitalist exemplars ahead of us on the list -- Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and Denmark --  all offer government-guaranteed health coverage. In doing so, they free their people from the fear of not being able to afford health care. And they free their companies from the burden of having to deal with skyrocketing medical costs year after year.

Some American businesses would not benefit from fixing our chaotic and wasteful health care system -- mainly those making a pile off of it. Do take a look at where these companies send their campaign contributions.

Republican efforts to repeal the health care reforms are also a sop to some tea party folk who object to any law that increases government's role in health care, even if it reduces deficits, which most of them probably don't know it does.

The Republican House may very well pass the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. Fortunately, this would be of little consequence. The reforms are moving forward.

Copyright 2011 The Providence Journal Co. Distributed by Creators.com 

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop, writes for Creators Syndicate.
Last modified on Wednesday, 19 January 2011 09:17