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October 20, 2009

It’s Not a Takeover. It’s Just Really Influential.

As President Obama said of his health care reform efforts, “this is not some government takeover.”

Of course it isn’t.  So what's in those 1500 pages in the latest version of the Baucus bill (pdf)? They're mostly made up of exhortations of free-market principles. And some boilerplate.  You know, that boring legal stuff you didn’t read when you signed your mortgage documents. 

And that turned out great.

If you want to nitpick, the bill does include the word “requirement” 784 times, which is more than once every two pages.  But those consist mostly of minor technicalities such as what specific benefits insurance companies are required to provide, to whom, when, where, and under what circumstances. 

Now does that sound like a “takeover” to you? 

Of course not.  Insurance companies retain almost complete freedom in most other areas.  For example, the government has absolutely no control over what color they paint their office walls. None.  And as for what font to use on their business cards?  Pretty much everyone agrees that that kind of decision is best left to the free market.

Unless we’re talking about the mandatory Uniform Coverage Document as addressed in Section 1503.  That "has to be in at least a 12-point font."

Hey, without some government oversight who knows what you’d end up with.  3-point Helvetica italics? 5-point Baskerville Old Face?  Wingdings?!

And it’s not only health insurance companies that the Baucus bill isn’t taking over.  For senior citizens, Title II provides “annual wellness visits” during which a “personalized prevention plan” is provided.

How personalized?  It includes your height, weight, body mass index and trouser size. 

For those who might consider that all a bit intrusive, the bill strictly limits what can be examined to “any other element determined appropriate by the Secretary.”

There’s your limited government right there Mr. Tea Party Protester.

In Section 4214 you’ll find a provision furthering efforts at “culture change” in nursing home care. 

Now, yes, we’ll concede that the bill appears to require that the federal government use public funds to change the culture of nursing home care in a direction approved of by the federal government.

But a takeover?  You’ve been watching too much Glenn Beck.

Finally, Section 6055 requires providers of health insurance to report you, your address, how long you’ve had insurance and “other such information as the Secretary may require” to the government, which will come in mighty handy given that Section 5000A makes it illegal to not have health insurance.

Now if you want to go around calling that a “government takeover” we can’t stop you, but you’re going to look pretty silly.

Admittedly we just skimmed the 1502-page bill, so maybe we missed some obscure section that could conceivably be interpreted as a government takeover of some kind but otherwise, it pretty much reads like a copy of “The Wealth of Nations.”

 And if you hear differently, that's probably just Fox News.


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October 20, 2009 at 04:15 PM | Permalink


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1500 Pages of Baskerville Old Face is surely a target rich environment. My cynical eye was drawn to the 6000s, “Revenue Items”“.

For instance, we want as many Americans to have the best possible coverage, so what better way to achieve that than ““Sec. 6001. Excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored health coverage.” “ I know what you’re thinking, you think I’ve only glossed the Table of Contents and that this is all out of context. Well,“ “there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 40 percent of the excess benefit.” “ So that’s a start, making good coverage more expensive will surely expand inclusiveness. Or something.

Oh, but that’s only for “excessive” benefits. The bad kind. What possible disincentive could flow from ““Sec. 6002. Inclusion of cost of employer-sponsored health coverage on W–2.”? “ Hey! They left out the word “excessive”.

We could encourage people to save money against possible medical emergencies, right? How would that work? How about ““Sec. 6004. Increase in additional tax on distributions from HSAs not used for qualified medical expenses.”

Of course, we can’t tax our way to all of our desired outcomes. We need to limit them as well,“ “Sec. 6005. Limitation on health flexible spending arrangements under cafeteria plans.”

Or make them more onerous,“ “Sec. 6006. Expansion of information reporting requirements.”

Or, well, you can guess the theme here:

““Sec. 6008. Imposition of annual fee on branded prescription pharmaceutical
manufacturers and importers.

Sec. 6009. Imposition of annual fee on medical device manufacturers and importers.

Sec. 6010. Imposition of annual fee on health insurance providers.”

Posted by: Michael | Oct 21, 2009 12:45:05 PM

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