A Peak Into a Frightening Future

Predictions are inherently difficult. Attempting to take today’s knowledge and apply it five, ten, or fifty years in the future can often get you into trouble. For instance, British physicist Lord Kelvin predicted that “heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” Or, the president of a Bank who advised Henry Ford’s attorney that “the horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad, a passing, fancy.” As a sports fan my personal favorite is by baseball hall of famer Tris Speaker who said of Babe Ruth, “taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.”

In other words, predictions, even by those who should know what they’re talking about, often fall flat. After saying all that, I’m now going to try and peer into the near future if health care reform passes.

The demand for health care reform (which has since turned into insurance reform) began because the costs of health care are skyrocketing. Barack Obama’s campaign website says ,

“Health insurance premiums have doubled in the last 8 years, rising 3.7 times faster than wages in the past 8 years, and increasing co-pays and deductibles threaten access to care. . . Over half of all personal bankruptcies today are caused by medical bills . .  . And given current trends, this problem will only get worse as health care spending is expected to double within the next decade.”

There is an undisputed need for reform. At this point, there are very few things people from across both sides of the aisle agree on, but they do agree that the current system is broken. Of course, the knives come out when you begin to discuss how to reform it.

Now, assume that Nancy Pelosi cobbles together the necessary votes to pass health care reform. Will the cost problem be fixed to the point where Americans are once again content? Will costs go down, or at least remain stagnant, so that health care fades back into the mist as a campaign issue?

Simply put. No. At least not for the people that health care reform is directed to – those in the non-group market who do not receive health care through an employer. In fact, the cost of insurance for people shopping in the individual marketplace would skyrocket faster than if nothing was done. As the CBO wrote in its assessment ,

“CBO and JCT estimate that the average premium per person covered (including dependents) for new nongroup policies would be about 10 percent to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law.”

In other words, the legislation as written provides very little financial incentive for people to let the issue fade. So then what happens? My guess is that people once again begin demanding reform. Democrats, assuming they are able to weather the brutal storm of November 2010, can attempt to do one of two things. First, they can preach patience. At this point, I think it is clear the public doesn’t really want to hear that. People either want this bill killed or passed. And they want it done yesterday. Second, Democrats can say that while the insurance exchanges were a fun idea, what this country really needs is what we wanted from the beginning – a public option.

Democrats will be back on the stump. Nancy Pelosi can be more forceful when she says , “If someone has a better idea for promoting competition and reducing health care costs, they should put it on the table.” Anthony Weiner can go back to saying , “any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition and bring down costs.” Dennis Kucinich and the rest of the Progressive Caucus can reiterate their view that we need a “robust public option…to protect consumers from these rampant premium increases.”

After years of constantly increasing premiums under the current version of health care the public may be more apt to listen to the Democrats idea.  Rather than skewer this bill for what it is – bad on cost control – Democrats can use it as an opportunity to take another step toward single payer.  Obviously, political prognostication is a tricky and often inaccurate tool (who could have predicted a year ago that we’d have a Republican Senator in Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat). Nevertheless, the fact that it is a possibly underscores the serious flaw in the current Senate bill. This is not the health care reform we, or even candidate Obama, envisioned. The very people it said it would protect, those in the individual market, it hurts the most.

I may be the next Lord Kelvin or Tris Speaker. I may be giving short shrift the next airplane, automobile, or Babe Ruth. But then again, maybe not.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee

Read more: www.collegerepublicans.org