Thursday, October 29, 2009

Harry’s Shell Game

By Ellen Sauerbrey

After months of work by Senate Committees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped up to the microphone and pronounced that in his opinion ““the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states.” Though there is little understanding of how an opt-out provision would work, it resurrected the seemingly dead government plan that, if enacted, will eventually destroy the private insurance market.

The inclusion of a public option in the Senate bill was a double cross that immediately resulted in Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the only Republican who was lending a “bipartisan fig leaf” to any of the Democrat’s health care plans, withdrawing her support. Liberal Democrat Chuck Shumer lauded Senator Reid who, he said, “showed just how deep his commitment is” to the public option.

Reid knows that without the illusion of a bipartisan plan, he is likely to lose several middle of the road Democrats, especially those who must face the voters next year. Senator Joe Lieberman signaled weeks ago his concern that Obama was trying to do too much too fast in a weak economy and has now said he is likely to join a Republican fillibuster.

The likelihood of Reid getting the needed sixty votes to pass a bill out of the Senate with a public option, with or without the new gimmick of a “state opt- out” remains murky at best. So what is his motivation?

The Senate leader is facing a very difficult re-election campaign with polls showing him running behind Republican contenders. His liberal base, in and out of the Senate, demands a public option. The opt- out provision may be a meaningless gimmick but it allows Reid to appear strong with Democrat activist groups back home and perhaps gives cover to worried Democrats.

No one knows the language of the Senate bill, but it is certain that the public option will draw the greatest attention and debate. Even if Reid can’t get the votes for what will become, in reality, a government health care system, he will be credited by his leftist supporters in the Senate, as well as back home for having given it his best. He can then offer up Senator Snowe’s trigger, regain “bipartisan support”, and attract nervous Democrats.

All the while, with the media focusing on the fight over “public option”, “opt-out”, and “trigger” provisions, other equally destructive parts of the bill will be overshadowed.

As Harry’s shell game is played in Congress, voters need to keep an eye on the ball. The problems with this “reform” go far beyond the issue of a public option. With or without the public option, it will be at minimum a trillion dollar proposal with a new “Health Choices Commissioner dictating health insurance plans.

With or without a public option, it forces everyone to buy a government dictated health insurance plan, imposes new job-killing taxes on employers, slashes Medicare for seniors, underpays doctors and hospitals, limits the deductibility of medical expenses on income taxes, imposes billions in new fees on manufacturers of life saving medical devices, creates taxpayer subsidies for abortion and illegal aliens, and leaves millions uninsured.

Harry’s shell game is about his tough re-election prospects in Nevada. Many think he is misreading his state. Unless the people of Nevada really want this new dependency on government, they are about to bury him in “you are fired” pink slips for attempting to destroy the finest health care system in the world.

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