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White House Now Responding to Individual Krauthammer Columns

John on November 29, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it:

In today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer takes great pains to paint a bleak picture of health care reform as “monstrous,” “overregulated,” and rife with “arbitrary bureaucratic inventions.”  The columnist’s argument may be cogent and well-written, but it is wholly inaccurate.

Krauthammer describes a “better choice” for health reform as having three elements: tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. All three elements are part of the current effort.

The author, Dan Pfeiffer, then procedes to explain why Krauthammer is “wholly inaccurate in three bullet points:

  • President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of HHS to move forward with an initiative to give states and health systems the opportunity to apply for medical liability demonstration projects. Section 2531 of the House bill also includes a voluntary state incentive grants program to encourage states to develop alternatives to traditional malpractice litigation.

First of all, there is indeed Presidential Memorandum, but all it does is ask the Secretary of HHS to fund demonstration projects. A little perspective: Congress is rewriting our nation’s health care system-wide, spending a trillion dollars minimum. Yet, the President is slow-walking tort reform with a memo endorsing demo projects. Curb your enthusiasm, Mr. President.

As for the House bill, the section they cite is the one that says:

The Secretary shall determine that a State has an alternative medical liability law in compliance with this section if…(A) the State enacted the law after the date of the enactment of this Act… [skipping ahead to paragraph 4] and the law does not limit attorney’s fees or impose caps on damages.

So only tort reform that protects the pockets of medical malpractice lawyers is permissible under the House bill. Krauthammer was right. This is a sham. Moving on…

  • Section 9001 of the Senate bill does impose a fee on high-cost health care plans.  (A PDF of the Senate bill is available here.)  To clarify: This is a fee on insurance companies that offer high-cost plans that drive up the cost of health care for all Americans, not a tax on individuals.

Krauthammer never took issue with this provision. What he said, in effect, was that the bill doesn’t go far enough and ought to tax all employer health plans. The response offered by Pfeiffer — we are taxing some plans — isn’t a response to Krauthammer’s point and certainly doesn’t make what he said inaccurate. FAIL.

Two down one to go:

  • Section 1333 of the Senate bill allows for interstate health care choice compacts. Coupled with insurance market reforms to ensure individuals are not discriminated against, this policy will expand health care choices to millions of Americans.

This is Pfeiffer’s attempt to claim that the Senate bill does allow for interstate purchase of insurance. Notice he doesn’t offer a link to this one. Here it is. What is says is that after 2013 states can opt in to compacts that allow interstate insurance. However…

  • Compacts require that each state involved pass a new law allowing such compacts prior to entering into them.
  • Compacts must be approved by the Secretary of HHS.
  • Compacts cannot be entered into prior to January 1, 2016!

So, coincidentally, none of these options will be available until Obama’s last three weeks in office, that’s assuming he is elected to a second term. Talk about slow-walking!

It doesn’t surprise me that Obama’s new communications czar is critiquing individual columns by individual columnists. That’s the Alinsky method, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” We’re seeing community organizing 101 in action.

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Category: Health & Education |

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