How Democratic Health Proposals Will Take Your Coverage Away

Following her performance in last week’s Democratic presidential debates, California Senator Kamala Harris once again tripped up over the issue of health care. For a second time, Harris attempted to claim that she would not eliminate private health coverage. In reality, however, virtually all Democrats running for president would enact policies jeopardizing Americans’ health insurance. The candidates differ largely in their level of honesty about their proposals’ effects.

During the debates on Wednesday and Thursday, only Harris, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said they supported eliminating private insurance. But in an interview Friday morning, Harris claimed she heard the question as asking whether she would give up her insurance, not whether she would take others’ coverage away.

The facts defy Harris’ lawyerly parsing. Section 107(a) of the bill that Sanders introduced, and which Harris, Warren, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker have co-sponsored, would make it “unlawful for a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided” under the legislation.

In May, Harris claimed that Sanders’ legislation would permit private health insurance to supplement the government-run program. But as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out at the time, Sanders’ bill would provide such comprehensive benefits that supplemental coverage could only cover treatments like cosmetic surgery. It raises an obvious question: Who would want to buy “insurance” covering breast implants and Botox injections? Harris’ Hollywood constituents, perhaps, but few middle-class Americans.

Other candidates have similarly tried to disguise their intentions when it comes to taking away Americans’ health coverage. During last week’s debates, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand—another co-sponsor of Sanders’ legislation to make private coverage “unlawful”—did not raise her hand when asked about eliminating health insurance. She said she supported a government-run “public option” instead: “I believe we need to get to…single payer. The quickest way you get there is you create competition with the insurers.”

But individuals with private coverage cannot, and should not, rest easy. The fact that Gillibrand says she supports a government-run health system as an eventual outcome means that she would work to sabotage the private health insurance system, to drive all Americans into a government-run program.

Even Democratic candidates who claim they oppose Sanders’ single-payer legislation have proposed policies that would eventually lead to such a government-run health system. In Thursday’s debate, Sen. Michael Bennet claimed that his proposal for a “public option” “could easily” see 35 million people enroll. Bennet proved off in his estimate by only about 100 million individuals. In 2009, the Lewin Group estimated that a plan similar to Bennet’s could enroll as many as 131.2 million Americans.

A review of Bennet’s legislation demonstrates how it would sabotage private coverage, by giving the government plan major structural advantages. Bennett’s bill grants the government plan $1 billion in start-up funding from taxpayers—with additional bailout funds likely should the plan ever run into financial distress. It would require all doctors participating in Medicare to join the government plan. And it would pay doctors and hospitals the much lower rates that Medicare pays, even though nearly three-quarters of hospitals lost money on their Medicare patients in 2017.

Among the Democrats running for president, Sanders has remained outspoken in his desire to take away Americans’ health coverage, and ban private insurance. While most of the other candidates say that they want to preserve private coverage, their policies would do the exact opposite. Just as Barack Obama eventually had to apologize for his infamous “If you like your plan, you can keep it” broken promise, so too will most of this year’s candidates have to explain why American families couldn’t keep their insurance if and when their policy plans go into effect.

In accepting his party’s nomination for president at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale infamously claimed that “[Ronald] Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you; I just did.” Thirty-five years later, virtually all Democrats have embraced a position almost as unpopular as raising taxes: Taking away Americans’ health insurance. Unlike Mondale, most of this year’s candidates won’t tell you the full truth about their policies. I just did.

This post was originally published at Fox News.

Kamala Harris vs. Hillary Clinton on Benefits to Immigrants

Back in January, jaws dropped when presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) admitted at a CNN town hall that she wanted to take away the existing health arrangements of hundreds of millions of Americans. Now we know one reason why.

In another interview with CNN that aired Sunday, Harris admitted that she wants to provide taxpayer-funded health care, along with education and other benefits, to individuals unlawfully present in this country. But as even Hillary Clinton recognized, doing so wouldn’t just cost precious taxpayer dollars. It will also encourage individuals to migrate to the United States for “free” health care.

In the interview, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Harris about language in Section 102(a) of the House and Senate single-payer bills, which would make health coverage available to all individuals present in the United States, regardless of their legal status. When questioned whether she supported granting benefits “to people who are in this country illegally,” Harris responded unequivocally that she does: “Let me just be very clear about this. I am opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education or public health, period.”

Compare Harris’ response to the words of none other than Hillary Clinton. When testifying before Congress about her health-care task force’s plan in September 1993, Clinton said she opposed extending benefits to “illegal aliens,” because it would encourage additional migration to the United States:

We do not think the comprehensive health care benefits should be extended to those who are undocumented workers and illegal aliens. We do not want to do anything to encourage more illegal immigration into this country. We know now that too many people come in for medical care, as it is. We certainly don’t want them having the same benefits that American citizens are entitled to have.

Clinton may not want illegally present foreign citizens having the same benefits that American citizens would be entitled to under single payer, but Harris does.

The problems sparked by single payer would reach far beyond undocumented foreigners living in this country. To wit, both the House and Senate single-payer bills prohibit individuals from traveling “for the sole purpose of obtaining health care” from the new government-run system. But note the specific wording: It only prohibits foreign citizens from traveling for the sole purpose of receiving health care.

This extremely permissive language would give federal officials fits. So long as anyone states some other purpose—visiting the U.S. Capitol, for instance, or seeing a Broadway play—for his or her visit, the language in the bills would make it impossible to deny these foreign citizens health care funded by U.S. taxpayers.

Provisions like these would not just cost American taxpayer dollars, it would also cost the U.S. health-care system. Growth in benefit tourism would greatly increase demand for health care (as would many other provisions in a single-payer system). Because of this greater demand, American citizens would have an increasingly difficult time accessing care. Foreign residents may not like waiting for care either, but individuals from developing countries lacking access to advanced health treatments might find queues for care in this country far preferable to no care at all in their native land.

Don’t Insult Americans’ Intelligence

In the same CNN interview that aired Sunday, Harris also tried, albeit unconvincingly, to “clean up” her January comments about “mov[ing] on” from private insurance. She claimed to Tapper that single-payer legislation would not fully eliminate private insurance. However, host Tapper rightly pointed out that supplemental insurance could only cover the very few services that the government-run plan would not, like cosmetic surgery.

Tapper also asked Harris about the unions that have health plans that they like now, not least because they gave up pay raises in prior years to keep rich health benefits. Harris could only concede that “it’s a legitimate concern which must be addressed.” I’m sure that those individuals facing the loss of their health coverage feel better, because Harris has officially dubbed their concern “legitimate.”

Note to Harris: Legal hair-splitting about whether single payer bars all health insurance, or just virtually all health insurance, and patronizing constituents fearful of losing their coverage, doesn’t seem like the best way to win support for a government takeover of health care. Perhaps next time she gives an interview with Tapper, she will finally have an answer for why she wants to give benefits to individuals unlawfully present, while taking coverage away from nearly 300 million Americans.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.

Sunday Show Wrap-Up on Berwick Nomination

Don Berwick’s recess appointment to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made several of the Sunday shows yesterday.  Appearing on both Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week, Administration senior advisor David Axelrod defended the nomination – but did so in a curious fashion.  In justifying its recess appointment last Tuesday, the White House claimed that “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the [Berwick] nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.”  But yesterday, when Jake Tapper pointed out that Sen. Grassley and others previously asked for a hearing on Dr. Berwick, Axelrod then claimed the real reason for the recess appointment was that OTHER nominees “have had hearings and then have waited months” for a vote.

To give some additional context, when President Bush nominated Kerry Weems – a career CMS civil servant – to head the agency, Democrats refused to allow so much as a nomination hearing to take place, yet President Bush did not grant Mr. Weems a recess appointment.

It’s also worth pointing out that Mr. Axelrod said “The hearing is not the issue” with respect to Dr. Berwick’s nomination.  If that’s the case, then when will Democrats schedule a hearing on his nomination for a permanent appointment?

Sen. Kyl also appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss Dr. Berwick, and posed the following question given the nominee’s stated views on rationing and other topics: “Had his nomination come up during the health care debate, can you imagine the hue and cry that would have occurred?”

The ABC transcript can be found here; video can be found here (excerpt on Berwick starts at about 1:05).  Video and a transcript of the Fox News Sunday appearances by Axelrod and Sen. Kyl can be found here.

The Berwick Evasion

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial titled thusly does an excellent job explaining both why Dr. Berwick’s recess appointment shows “lack of respect for the public’s health care views,” and the problems with Dr. Berwick’s way of thinking about health care that prompted the nomination controversy in the first place.  The problem with Dr. Berwick lies not just in his quotes about rationing and in praise of Britain’s National Health Service, but in the “command and control vision…widespread among America’s technocratic left” that underpins his positions.  Of course, this technocratic vision – that a team of centralized planners can devise a system to reduce health costs nationwide – “is also increasingly anachronistic amid today’s breakneck medical progress.  There isn’t a single ‘ideal model’ in a world of treatments tailored to the genetic patterns of specific cancers, or for the artificial pancreas for individual diabetics, or other innovations that are increasingly common.”  Thus technocrats are forced to ration “with our eyes open,” resulting in the widely distributed quotes Dr. Berwick made last year.

From the other end of the political spectrum, the New York Times’ editorial claims that “Republican senators made it clear that they would use [Berwick’s] confirmation hearing to distort his record…mostly to score political points for the November elections.”  That statement is ironic on several levels.  First,  Speaker Pelosi sent out a memo last week advertising the Administration’s new health care website – paid for at taxpayer’s expense – as “the best marketing tool yet available for how reform affects American [sic].”  Second, the Hill quotes one expert as saying the White House’s recess appointment “protects vulnerable Democrats…from having to weigh in on the controversial figure of Berwick. ‘This way…nobody gets forced to vote on it.’”

Finally, during yesterday’s White House press briefing, Jake Tapper pointed out that Sen. Grassley requested a hearing on Dr. Berwick weeks ago, which was not scheduled prior to the President’s appointment.  Robert Gibbs didn’t directly answer a question as to why Democrats decided not to arrange a hearing sooner, but denied that the Administration wanted to avoid a hearing “because of some of Dr. Berwick’s statements.”

It’s worth pointing out that Dr. Berwick’s nomination for a permanent posting at CMS remains pending before the Finance Committee, and a hearing can be called on that nomination at any time.  Republicans have asked for a hearing, the Administration has said it is not trying to avoid one, and Chairman Baucus said he wants to ensure that “critical questions are asked of the nominee – and answered.”  There’s one easy way to address everyone’s concerns – to schedule a hearing for the upcoming work period.  Will Democrats do so?  The ball’s in their court…

Biden Admits: Democrat Health Bill IS a Government Takeover of Health Care

In a recent interview with ABC News’ Jake Tapper, Vice President Biden said he was attempting to persuade reluctant House Democrats to vote for the bill because “We’re going to control the insurance companies” once it passes.  In other words, the government will be taking control of health insurance – and thus health care – from the private sector.

Last summer President Obama spoke frequently of “misinformation” regarding the Democrat bill.  So who’s getting the “misinformation” now: the House Democrats who are being told by Vice President Biden that the bill is a government takeover of health care in an attempt to strong-arm them into passing the legislation, or the American people who were told by the President as recently as yesterday that the bill does nothing of the sort?

David Axelrod’s Sunday Show Flip-Flops

Appearing on “This Week” yesterday, White House advisor David Axelrod attempted to claim both sides of two critical issues in the health care debate.  On the process used to enact health care legislation, he said that “we don’t want to see procedural gimmicks used to try and prevent an up or down vote” on a health bill.  However, when pressed about Democrats’ “Slaughter Solution” to enact the Senate bill into law without the House ever voting on it, Axelrod claimed that such issues really “don’t matter.”  In other words, the Administration opposes Senate Republicans using “procedural gimmicks” to prevent the passage of a Senate bill they oppose, but supports House Democrats’ “procedural gimmicks” to prevent them from voting on a Senate bill they similarly dislike.

Likewise, when questioned about the widely unpopular backroom deals included in the Senate bill, Axelrod attempted to distinguish the “Cornhusker Kickback” from the “Louisiana Purchase” and other unsavory agreements, claiming that the latter provision is not “state-specific” and that other states could qualify under “certain sets of circumstances.”  This waffling comes even as Senate Democrats attempt to preserve their backroom deals, despite the public outrage that came as a result of their inclusion in the Senate bill.  And it raises additional questions: Would the “Cornhusker Kickback” be permitted by the Administration if the language was written in a way that all states could theoretically qualify for the money, even in reality only one state could do so? (i.e. “the nation’s leading corn producer will have its Medicaid fully paid for by the federal government” – a standard any state could in theory meet, even though a state like Alaska is highly unlikely to do so).  And how desperate are Democrats to enact their government takeover of health care that they would even attempt to justify these backroom deals through such questionable posturing?

 

TAPPER: If it does not work this week, is that the last chance for health care reform?

AXELROD: Well, I believe it is going to happen this week. I think we’re going to have a vote, and the American people are entitled to an up or down vote. We don’t want to see procedural gimmicks used to try and prevent an up or down vote on this issue. We’ve had a long debate, Jake. It’s gone on for a year. The plan the president has embraced and has put forward is one that takes ideas, the best thinking from both the Republican and Democratic sides. This marketplace where people can buy insurance who don’t have it today, a competitive marketplace — that’s an idea that both sides embrace. The place where we don’t agree is on whether there should be some restraint on insurance companies and whether they should be allowed to run wild. We believe there should be some restraint, some on the other side don’t think so. …

TAPPER: House Democrats are talking about using a procedural maneuver to pass the Senate bill in the House and then the fixes without ever actually having a vote on the Senate bill. Here is Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat of California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOOLSEY: I don’t need to see my colleagues vote for the Senate bill in the House. We don’t like the Senate bill. Why should we be forced to do that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Can the president support a procedure where members of the House pass the Senate bill without ever voting for the Senate bill?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think everybody is going to be on the record by the end of this week on these matters, and of course in answer to Congresswoman Woolsey, the president’s proposal is not the Senate proposal. With the corrections that have been made, with the improvements that have been made, some including Republican ideas, some including Democratic ideas, this is — this is a different proposal, and I think it addresses some of the concerns that people have had.

TAPPER: But when pushing reconciliation in the Senate, the president has talked about how the Senate bill deserves an up or down vote. Shouldn’t-

AXELROD: Health care, Jake, health care deserves an up or down vote, and health care will get an up or down vote. Remember, we already had up or down votes in the House and Senate, 60 votes in the Senate, the bill passed the House as well. Now the question is do we pass the requisite improvements to this bill, corrections to this bill to make it even stronger, and I think we will.

TAPPER: So the parliamentary stuff doesn’t matter. It’s just a question of whether or not the overall package–

AXELROD: What does matter is that people cast or are allowed to cast an up or down vote on the future of health insurance reform in this country. We have had a year. Enough game playing, enough maneuvering. Let’s have the up or down vote and give the American people the future they deserve. …

 

TAPPER: One of the things that the president has acknowledged the American people don’t like about the bill as it exists right now, the Senate bill with all the special deals that are in there for individual senators to win their vote. The president has directed the House and Senate to remove those from the fixes that you guys are creating, but some members of the Senate and the House are pushing back. They want those deals. Are you ready to pledge that none of those deals or any other deal that other members may be trying to get as this is being pushed through the House, that none of them will be in this final bill?

AXELROD: Well, the president does believe that state-only carveouts should not be in the bill. There are things in the bill that apply to groupings of states who satisfy — for example, in Louisiana, the — what has been portrayed as a provision relating to Louisiana says that if a state, if every county in a state is declared a disaster area, they get some extra Medicaid funds. Well, that would apply to any state that–

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: — talking about Montana, talking about $100 million for a hospital in Connecticut–

AXELROD: The principle should be, the principle should be, do those provisions apply to everyone? In other words, are there things that pertain, that if a state satisfies a certain set of circumstances, they would — they would qualify. And I think that is different than a special state-specific thing. In the case of Nebraska, what everyone was outraged about was that it seemed to be a special deal just for one state. That is not going to be in this bill.

TAPPER: So none of the things that are state-specific to win the votes of individual senators. Louisiana not counting as that, but none of the others will be in the final bill.

AXELROD: The principle that we want to apply is that are these — are these applicable to all states? Even if they do not qualify now, would they qualify under certain sets of circumstances. …