Flacking for President Barack Obama's "new" health care plan, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters assembled for yesterday's press briefing: "The president posted ideas of his on the White House website today. We hope Republicans will post their ideas either on their website, or we'd be happy to post them on ours, so that the American people could come to one location and find out the parameters of what will largely be discussed on Thursday." And this might have been a small bit of successful Obama administration gamesmanship on health care and transparency in government except for one small problem: reality. Not only do House Republicans already have their own health care plan, not only is it already available online, but the White House's own website already links to it!
And speaking of the President's behind-closed-doors plan, don't believe any of those headlines showing a $950 billion price tag. That is an Obama administration-created number that should not be afforded any more credibility than Gibbs' grasp of the contents of his own website. In fact, the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published this about the President's new plan yesterday:
Preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.
In other words, even with over a year to prepare for the moment they would finally release their own plan, the White House could only manage to obtain an "incomplete" grade from the official budget scorekeeper in Washington. So every time you hear the President say "my plan is paid for" or "my plan reduces the deficit," just remember you are going to have to take his word for it.
And where the President's plan is more firm than fuzzy, it only makes the scheme worse:
Cornhusker Kickback for All: Instead of just eliminating the Cornhusker Kickback, the White House chose to solve their Medicaid problem by extending the deal to all 50 states. Now all new Medicaid spending through 2017 and 90% after 2020 will be picked up by the feds.
Weakens and Delays Cost Control: The White House's proposal is silent on whether all collective bargaining agreements will be exempt from Obamacare's new health insurance tax, but the new plan does go ahead and weaken what was the only thing in the entire bill that even liberal health care experts thought had a chance of containing health care costs. The plan delays implementation of the new tax until 2018 (when President Obama is well out of office) and raises the threshold for taxation to $27,000.
Steals More Money from Medicare: To pay for Cornhusker Kickbacks for all, increased subsidies for health insurance, and the health insurance tax delay, the White House raises the Medicare payroll tax and extends it for the first time ever to investment income. This new $120 billion in taxes should be used to help plug Medicare's existing $38 trillion unfunded liability, not fund a brand new entitlement.
Creates New Price Control Authority: The President's plan also creates a new Federal Health Insurance Rate Authority, which would provide federal “assistance and oversight” to the states conducting reviews of “ unreasonable rate increases” and “unfair practices” of health insurance plans. This, of course, establishes for the first time a legislative basis for the imposition of price controls on health insurance. If government can control both health benefits and health care pricing, that’s the proverbial ball game. Private health care is private in name only.
Providing an overview for the President's new plan, the Associated Press reports: "Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren't looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he's just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency." The problem is, the plan the President released yesterday is not a "start over" ... it is just a continuation and expansion of the same Washington-centric policies that the American people have clearly rejected over the past year. There still is a chance for Obama to save his presidency, but yesterday's plan will not do it.