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Thursday's Health Summit: Obama the Re-Animator?

Thursday, 25 Feb 2010 | 1:04 AM ET

Like an insatiable flesh-eating zombie in an embarrassingly bad sci-fi flick, ObamaCare will not die. Just when you think it’s dead, The Re-Animator—President Obama—revives this corpse to feast again.

President Barack Obama
Photo by: Pete Souza
President Barack Obama

But if Bam isn’t careful, this zombie could turn on him and consume his presidency. It already gobbled up his first year, when he should have focused solely on the economy and jobs. Most Americans don’t want this sweeping, costly overhaul: a trillion dollars in new health spending over the next decade despite record-high deficits; over $600 billion in new taxes to pay for only part of it; and the certainty that the actual costs will run hundreds of billions of dollars higher.

Yet later Thursay, President Obama takes the stage before a bipartisan audience of Congressmen (and TV cameras capturing him live, of course) for the purported purpose of assembling a plan that can garner broad support.

In this charade, Obama will set a new personal best in the Audacity of Audacity: He pretends to want Republican input to his health plan, he poses as if he is open to new ideas that will improve on the monstrosity the Dems have spawned—but he doesn’t mean a single damned word of it.

This became clear on Tuesday when the President, after waiting a full 13 months into his term, finally put forth his own health-care bill. This, just two days before his much-ballyhooed powwow to solicit Republican ideas for a new approach. Can there be a better way to deliver his true message: Piss off, guys.

It flies in the face of any professed willingness to reach across the party aisle and build bipartisan support. And it shows the President remains in deep denial about the unpopularity of his Big Government dream.

In this regard, Barrack Obama is eerily similar to George W. Bush. President Bush plied the politics of repetition, figuring if he repeated an assertion enough times, more Americans would believe it was true. The 9/11 attacks . . . Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Voila: conflation!

And so it is that President Obama has told us, countless times when he was a Democratic longshot and repeatedly after taking the Oval Office, that he really wants bipartisan support for his schemes. Sure he does, because he says it so many times.

If the President were sincere, he would sit down with members of Congress today armed with a few color-coded magic markers and a whiteboard divvied up into three vertical columns: Taxing, Spending, Regulating.

And in the spirit of the two themes that now define government in our age—Less Is More, and We Can’t Afford That Right Now—they could agree on a few bare-bones provisions to get us started on what I’ll call Zombie Lite:

-- First, let’s target only 15 million uninsured Americans (not 31 million as planned). This is the one-third of all uninsured people who want coverage, but they can’t afford it and don’t qualify for government aid, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. We’ll have to get to the rest later.

-- Second, use the online marketplace to clear the way for interstate competition among private health plans to insure the 15 million or so people who have coverage but buy it on their own without an employer’s help. That would bring prices down. ObamaCare falls short on this score.

-- Third, let’s admit it: No health care overhaul will succeed without a total rethinking of Medicare (for the elderly) and Medicaid (for the poor). We need to delay the qualifying age from 65 to 72. Cut coverage for people who earn over $250,000 a year or have assets over, say, $1 million. Remove a legal ban on using cost-benefit analysis in deciding which procedures get the best coverage. And redirect spending to make people pay more out-of-pocket for routine doctor visits while covering more costs of preventive care, chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease, and catastrophic care.

-- Fourth, wipe out most of the tax increases in ObamaCare; at one point 18 new taxes were unearthed in the Senate bill by Americans for Tax Reform. Most importantly, eliminate Obama’s outrageous Medicare tax on investment gains from venture capital and private equity funds. To tax a premiere form of wealth creation to fund a doomed and bankrupt government program is woefully stupid.

Also eliminate the arbitrary multibillion-dollar cut in Medicare funding for medical devices, which the Dems want to slap on makers such as Johnson & Johnson and General Electric. U.S. companies dominate this field, and a steep reimbursement cut will hurt U.S. jobs.

As for new taxes, impose a tax on gold-plated health plans (those that cost a family over $27,000 a year) that covers everyone, even Obama’s union allies, and which begins immediately, not years out into the future.

--Fifth, use tax incentives to encourage a new kind of care—mobile, flexible, cheap and high-volume. Grant tax breaks to hospitals and developers willing to set up 7-11-style doctor outlets where anyone can walk in without an appointment and get treated for a cold. At $25 per visit, out of pocket. Do the same for house-call services that focus on preventive care to head off a costly visit to the emergency room.

Later today at the zombie sitdown, when the lights go on and the TV cameras roll, chances are none of these ideas will gain any heft. And when President Obama tells us, yet again, that he wants bipartisan support for his creation, the key question is: Should anyone bother to believe him?

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