NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 4, 2009

President Obama seems to view his health care program as sink-or-swim, so Democrats are rushing the largest entitlement expansion since LBJ into law with a truncated debate and as little public scrutiny as possible. The Senate plans to begin marking up legislation in early June, voting by the August recess and sending the bill to the Oval Office by Thanksgiving.

However, it's not hard to see why Democrats are trying to hew to this full-speed-ahead timetable, says the Wall Street Journal:

  • Their health overhaul will run up a 13-figure price tag at a time when spending and deficits are already at epic levels and hook up the middle class to an intravenous drip of government health subsidies for generations to come.
  • Yet, slowing the growth rate of U.S. health costs by 1.5 percentage points would increase real gross domestic product (GDP) by more than 2 percent in 2020 and nearly 8 percent in 2030.

Moreover, part of the need for speed comes from the fact that "stakeholders" -- such as doctors and hospitals -- still seem to be experiencing Stockholm Syndrome, says the Journal.  Democrats have so far succeeded in conjuring an illusion of political inevitability, which has kept industry groups in line lest they be shut out of the negotiations.  But once the policy details of Obama's new foundation are poured, even shell-shocked CEOs might stir up their courage to resist.

The reality is that Democrats are contemplating the most sweeping restructuring of the health markets since 1965, and they don't want to let the details slow them down.  Better to grab what they will portray as a major domestic achievement while Obama is at the height of his popularity and before anyone understands what it will mean in practice.  The consequences and the cost can be explained later, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Why the Health Care Rush?" Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2009.

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