[Posted by Karl]
Conservatives for Patients Rights is calling Obamacare an “old joke,” but it is rapidly resembling a comedy of errors filled with bad new ones.
The wheels of the Congressional clown car started coming off when Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad admitted not only that the Left’s beloved “public plan” option doesn’t have the votes, but also that trying to railroad Obamacare through as part of the budget reconciliation process was not a viable option. The AMA opposition to any “strong” public plan was also a big red flag.
In the first ring of our circus, you could see the panic among the punditocracy. David Broder started banging the drum for the more bipartisan Wyden-Bennett bill. Al Hunt started praying that a government takeover could be saved by former Senators Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and Howard Baker. And David Brooks dreamt that Obama will force Congress to give up contol of government spending on healthcare to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission — all through a process that suggests Brooks outsourced his column to underpants gnomes.
Indeed, in the second ring, the gnomes also may have been responsible for the half-baked Kennedy-Dodd markup of healthcare “reform,” which the Congressional Budget Office said would cost a trillion dollars and force about 15 million people off of their employer-based coverage, while extending coverage to only 16-17 million of the uninsured. The Obama administration ran away from the story like the plague, while The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn literally tried to calm his readers with a clip from National Lampoon’s Animal House. Spoiler for Mr. Cohn; Kevin Bacon ends up trampled flat. Similarly, with private estimates of a Kennedy-Dodd bill providing universal coverage ranging as high as $4 trillion, and the inclusion of a public option pushing as many as 119 million out of the coverage they generally like, taxpayers will keep running when Kennedy-Dodd is scored in full.
Over in the third ring, the ostensibly more realistic Senate Finance Committee has yet to get all of the plates spinning:
Several officials said the Congressional Budget Office had issued a cost estimate of $1.6 trillion, with only about $560 billion paid for. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the matter was confidential.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the panel, dismissed the estimates as outdated, and officials predicted the final bill would come in under $1 trillion.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that with cost estimates coming in so high, “It is clear there have got to be changes made to make the whole package affordable.”
Those missing hundreds of billions of dollars ensure still more comedy gold as Dodd and Baucus openly feud over the unpopular proposal to tax health insurance benefits, which Obama opposed as a massive middle-class tax hike during the campaign.
Baucus and Obama would also like to slash hundreds of billions from Medicare and Medicaid over the next decade. This proposal is a laff riot on several levels. First, there is the rank hypocrisy of a Democratic proposal that Democrats would mercilessly demogogue had it been made by the GOP. Second, the broad-based cuts put the lie to the fantasy of expert bureaucrats surgically rationing healthcare. Third, widening the gap between public and private payment rates would shift more of the costs to private premium payers, ultimately forcing even more people into whatever public plan the Left would propose.
Ringmaster Obama hit the road to sell massive new government spending as the way to control massive government spending, but on this issue, there isn’t one born every minute.
Maybe ABCNews is rushing to air its Obamacare infomercial next week because it’s the last week they can air it without a laugh track.
Update: The Hill has even more Democratic flailing and infighting. Deadlines are being pushed back. Democratic constituencies are getting unhappier with the Congressional sausage. Tyler Cowen seems surprised at how quickly health care reform is being crushed between Lefty demands and the CBO.