NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 5, 2009

If Democrats learned anything from the HillaryCare defeat, it was the danger of admitting to their wish to federalize the health market.  Since returning to power, they've pursued a new strategy: to stealthily and incrementally expand government control, says the Wall Street Journal.

It's the "stimulus" that has proven the real gift horse -- a behemoth that has allowed Democrats to speed up the takeover of health care under cover of an economic crisis.  They initially claimed that the "stimulus" would provide Medicaid money to states struggling to pay existing bills.  What it really does is dramatically expand the number of Americans who qualify for Medicaid, says the Journal:

  • Medicaid is now offered not to just poor Americans, but Americans who have lost their jobs.
  • And not Americans who recently lost their jobs, but those who lost jobs, say, early last year.
  • And to Americans who will lose their jobs up to 2011.
  • It will also be offered to Americans who have lost their spouses and their children.
  • Moreover, the federal government is graciously footing the whole bill, and the legislation also forbids states to apply income tests in most cases.

The "stimulus" also hijacks the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), a program that lets the unemployed retain access to their former company health benefits -- usually for about 18 months.  Here's the kicker: whereas employees were previously responsible for paying their health premiums while on COBRA, now the feds will pay 65 percent.

The bill even takes a whack at the private market.  Under the guise of money for "health technology," the legislation makes the government the national coordinator for electronic health records, able to certify what platforms are acceptable.  This is an attempt to squelch a growing private market that is competing to improve transparency and let consumers compare providers and costs, says the Journal.

Source: Kimberley A. Strassel, "Democratic Stealth Care," Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2009.

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