This link will take you to a brief synopsis of the nearly 2,000 page House Healthcare Bill released yesterday. As I have stated previously, I don't really have a great sense of exactly how voting on the bill will result or what the final impact of all of its provisions will be. Granted, in the Politico story I linked to above, it doesn't appear that all of our elected Representatives (albeit mostly Republicans) understand it fully either. Or maybe they just don't think they can trudge through 400,000 words the next few days. Apparently they are all too far removed from law school to remember the days of reading hundreds of pages of statutes for fun.
However, a few things, particularly in the story picked up on the Nasdaq page, really jumped off the page. One is the number $1.055, as in trillion, or the cost of the bill. The other is $572, as in billion, or the estimated amount that the government will require in additional tax revenues over the next ten or so years to fund the program, even after offsets from program cuts. Two other items which stuck out were exchanges where those without employer-provided insurance could gain coverage, and inclusion of the always controversial public option. Estimates are that the former will insure 30 million Americans who are not insured now, while the latter would cover an additional 6 million. There would also be a large increase in those covered by Medicaid.
There has been, and will continue to be, intelligent and not so intelligent analysis and argument about the bill, what it means for who, and how it will impact the overall health of the people and the economy. It also seems heartless to suggest that some members of our society should not have access to medical attention when necessary.
However, from an economics perspective, the numbers being discussed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are truly huge. There seems to be no way that tax increases to the middle class will not occur, or that somehow an at least 12 million additional Americans being insured by the government will not have a high impact on future taxes. In nations where 100% healthcare coverage, or something close to it, exists, taxes are always higher.
The merits of the plan and what it is trying to accomplish are easily identifiable, despite being highly contested. However, the actual costs of the plan itself and how those costs will be paid seem less clear to me, and may be understated, if anything, at this point. I don't think that these concerns are being addressed enough by either side. Additionally, past promises of 'no new taxes' are ringing, perhaps predicatably, hollow. However, it does appear that progress is being made, and hopefully if enough of our legislaters can take the time to read through this proposed bill over the weekend, there can be some intelligent discussion going forward. Let us hope so. Americans have enough trouble deciding what they think is right, and many spend more time being brainwashed by Cable News Entertainment than deciding what they truly think about issues of the day. However, if enough real information is put forward, perhaps somehow, what now seems to be an inevitable bill may someday be signed and put into force that results in a healthy public without resulting in an even sicker economy.