In his new television ad, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson defends his vote for the Senate’s health overhaul bill with a number of compelling arguments — compelling, but not supported by the facts.
Sen. Nelson tells Nebraskans the bill “lowers costs for families and small businesses, protects Medicare . . . and reduces the deficit. And it’s not run by the government.”
In fact, polls show that a strong majority of Americans surveyed, including a majority of Nebraskans polled, oppose this health bill because they understand what independent experts have confirmed: The legislation would increase health insurance premiums for tens of millions of people, jeopardize access to care for many seniors, burden future generations with trillions of dollars of new debt and entrust government — not patients and doctors — with control over many personal health care decisions.
The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that families purchasing health insurance in the individual market (such as farmers, ranchers and other self-employed people) would actually see their premiums increase. They would be $2,100 higher in 2016 if the Senate bill is enacted than they would be if Congress did nothing. “Reform” for them means higher costs.
Families receiving coverage through a small business would see their premiums increase about as fast as they would without reform — to $19,200 a year, on average, by 2016.
Indeed the Senate bill’s failure to lower health care costs and the new and higher taxes the legislation imposes were among the reasons the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen and dozens of other Nebraska organizations urged Sen. Nelson to oppose the Senate bill.
The bill’s proponents argue that some people would see lower premiums because they would qualify for subsidies. But the money to pay for these subsidies doesn’t grow on trees. Taxpayers must pay, one way or another.
In his ad, Sen. Nelson wisely does not say the bill would allow people to keep their current insurance — because that is irrefutably false. Nor does he mention his controversial “Cornhusker Kickback” that is being challenged by more than a dozen state attorneys general. And he doesn’t mention the abortion language he wrote that pro-life advocates, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, oppose because they believe it would allow federal taxpayer dollars to be spent on abortion.
But Sen. Nelson does say that the bill “reduces the deficit,” an assertion based upon Washington budgetary gimmicks. When fully implemented, the bill’s estimated 10-year cost would be $2.5 trillion, not the $871 billion advertised cost.
The Senate bill cooks the books by immediately increasing taxes while delaying costly benefits until 2014 or later. The bill also double-counts hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings, an accounting trick that would land corporate officials in jail if they tried it.
And seniors know that you can’t slash Medicare spending by $471 billion over the next decade and claim this makes the program stronger. If these cuts go through, many providers may shut their doors or stop seeing Medicare patients, according to Medicare’s chief actuary, Richard Foster. Foster warns this could jeopardize access to care for Medicare beneficiaries.
Seniors with Medicare Advantage plans — including more than 28,000 Nebraskans — are particularly at risk of losing benefits under the Senate bill, thanks to $120 billion in cuts specifically to these plans. However, seniors with Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania, New York and Florida are protected from these cuts because of deals cut by senators from their states.
This begs the question: If the Senate bill really “protects Medicare,” as Sen. Nelson asserts, why would senators seek to ensure seniors from their states will be exempt from the Medicare Advantage cuts?
Sen. Nelson says the Senate bill does not have the government running health care. But the nearly 2,500-page bill contains more than 2,500 references to powers and responsibilities of the secretary of Health and Human Services. And for the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government would require people to purchase a specific product — health insurance — and there are more than 150 references to fines and penalties for violating the new federal rules.
But that’s only the beginning before tens of thousands of pages of regulations are written to implement the new health care law and expand the tentacles of government control.
Given the opposition he has faced in the state and the findings of independent experts, Sen. Nelson may want to rethink his support for the legislation when it comes up for a final vote.