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Monday, November 09, 2009

Small Biz Health Care Daily: From the House to the Senate Trigger

The House health care bill – which barely passed by a vote of 220-215 over the weekend – was aptly dubbed as “The Worst Bill Ever” by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The measure would jack up taxes (particularly on entrepreneurs and investors), impose coverage mandates and penalties (more taxes) on individuals and businesses, impose regulations and mandates on insurers, send government spending skyrocketing, create a new, expensive government health care plan program, and more.

This, of course, is a recipe for health care disaster – namely, out-of-control costs, diminished quality of care, price controls and rationing, and even higher taxes.

Now, things move to the U.S. Senate, where what’s being debated is still a dangerous mess.

At least one of the items that passed the House is causing considerable debate in the Senate, that is, the government health insurance plan. The Senate is considering a “trigger” option on a government insurance plan.

The Associated Press reported:

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who voted for a version of the Senate bill in committee, has given the Democrats a possible way out. She's proposing to allow a government plan, if after a few years premiums keep escalating and local health insurance markets remain in the grip of a few big companies. This is the "trigger" option. That approach appeals to moderates such as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "If the private market fails to reform, there would be a fallback position," Landrieu said last week. "It should be triggered by choice and affordability, not by political whim."

Of course, all this would do is delay the government plan for a short period of time. After all, this is not about market failure; it’s about government policy failure.

Costs are not going to decline, but instead increase under this kind of proposal due to more regulation and mandates, and higher taxes. The effort itself assures that costs are going to rise, which in turn, assures that the public option “trigger” will be pulled. That, in turn, means costs being pushed even higher, and private firms being pushed aside.

It’s fitting that the word “trigger” is being used in this discussion. The entire effort seems designed to kill the U.S. health care system – like pointing a policy gun at the best health care system in the world, and many politicians ready to pull the trigger. The House has fired a shot, and now the Senate has to decide if it is going to join in, or put the policy gun down and pull back from this dangerous game.

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

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