You know that American voters aren't feeling the love for
ObamaCare when House members hold town-hall meetings in their districts,
only to be heckled and booed.
No worries for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. On
Tuesday, she ditched the town-hall concept in favor of a friendlier
closed-to-the-public "roundtable" with health care professionals and
consumers at San Francisco General Hospital.
At a press conference afterward, Pelosi proclaimed that "health
care is a right, not a privilege." The House health care bill, she said,
would mean Americans could receive health care with no restrictions on
pre-existing medical conditions, more benefits for seniors on Medicare, a
yearly cap on co-payments and no cap on what providers pay.
Catherine Howard, 36, was on board. Five years ago, Howard was
self-employed, uninsured and afraid that she might get wiped out financially
if she was injured snowboarding. So she bought a low-premium,
high-deductible insurance plan for $140 per month. "I had no way of knowing
at that time what it was going to cost me," she said.
Then she got breast cancer and the plan that she thought
would cap her co-payments at $7,500 didn't. The uncovered costs of vital
treatment drove Howard close to $100,000 in debt.
While many of those at the roundtable worked in health care,
none raised the question asked by CBS5 reporter Hank Plante: How much is all
this going to cost?
To which Pelosi responded, "First, let's talk about the cost of
doing nothing" that is, the anticipated rising tab for health care costs
if they continue to grow at current rates.
"We can't afford not to do this," Pelosi argued. Only in
Washington do people assert with a straight face that they can expand who
gets covered and what everyone gets and it will be cheaper. And because
many readers believe this fable, allow me to note that Massachusetts passed
a universal plan three years ago, and already cost increases have led to
President Obama has said he'll pay for a health package by
taxing workers who earn $250,000 or more. But there simply aren't enough
rich people to bankroll all the things that Obama and Pelosi have promised,
as Stanford economics professor Victor R. Fuchs noted at a Chronicle
editorial board meeting Wednesday.
Fuchs has been an Obama supporter, but he would prefer to see
Congress wait a year so that Washington can craft a package that would offer
a basic health plan to all Americans paid for with a value-added tax.
That's the right approach especially if savvy regulations
protect consumers from rapacious plans. Let the government award vouchers
for basic coverage, added internist William S. Andereck, and everyone has an
incentive to buy health care.
The best part: This approach ends the illusion that if Uncle Sam
pays for medical care, it's free. As I watched Pelosi on Tuesday, I thought:
It's the California Budget Mess all over again with big promises of more
government and more benefits and no across-the-board taxes to pay for the
package. Democrats like to congratulate themselves for their noble
intentions. But they have offered no plan to pay for them, and so they are
bound to fail.