The two great arguments over President Obama’s push for radical restructuring of health care in America are (1) the massive costs and (2) the devastating effect on private insurance which would follow the establishment of a “government option/public plan” that would quickly grow into a single payer plan of the sort that results in ration in Canada and Great Britain.
The focus on these two twin evils of Obamacare has significantly slowed the plan’s momentum as my column in today’s Washington Examiner details, which is crucial because experienced eyes may now have a chance to focus on the details of at least the House version of the bill. (The Senate’s Max Baucus has continued to keep the wraps on the Senate’s version, recognizing that the moment the bill’s text is revealed, genuine analysis of the plan’s enormous risks will commence.)
I have written before —here and here among many places– about the cautionary tale provided by the Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act of 2008 (“CPSIA”), which hasn’t even passed its first birthday yet but which has cost American business hundreds of millions of dollars in unintended costs and American workers untold thousands of jobs by laying crippling and absolute mandates on great numbers of American manufacturers. Just this past week the Consumer Products Safety Commission gave another shrug of it shoulders and told another group of manufacturers that the law’s bans on even microscopic levels of lead in glass and crystal beads was absolute, continuing the CPSC’s run of “tough luck” rulings that have dealt blow after blow to American manufacturing already reeling from the recession. The CPSIA’s labeling requirements are now kicking in as well, layering on enormously costly requirements for testing and product marking that make no sense to any reasonable consumer advocate.
In short, the CPSIA is a perfect example of Congress’s inability to write reasonable, coherent legislation free of devastating though unintended side-effects even in a relatively simple area of legislative endeavor.
Imagine what havoc it will unleash when Congress turns to the massive and massively complicated area of health care and begins to mandate that all or almost all businesses in America adopt certain policies and make obligatory choices. It has done so in the past with regard to important matters such as retirement savings programs and union elections, and always the roll-out of such undertakings has been difficult and marked by uncertainty and difficult questions of legislative intent.
Never has Congress rushed into anything as remotely as important as health care and begun dictating to the employers of America what they must do vis-a-vis every employee. The upheaval will be enormous, which is why the example of CPSIA should be in front of every senator and congressman considering whether to rush this process in order to provide the president with a symbolic political victory. Six key senators have sent a letter urging a slow down, and this is clearly the prudent course. As the CPSC’s series of rulings on the CPSIA have shown, there is no ability for an agency to fix or soften Congressional mandates no matter how poorly written or obviously ridiculous. The refusal of Congress to move to clean up the mess it made with CPSIA also announces what will happen after Congress passes its magic wand over health care and blows up who knows what: nothing. Tough luck. Deal with it. They will all have campaigns to run which won’t want to focus on the new laws failures and shortfalls.
The responsible course on such an enormously important law would be for the Senate Finance Committee to take its various drafts and publish them online and allow the public a chance to see and assess the specifics of the language on the table. If any compromise emerged –which would certainly have to kill off the “government option/public plan” to succeed at other than bankrupting the country– it too should be offered to the public to allow for the sort of fine tuning that would have prevented the serial train wrecks brought about by CPSIA.
And if any big bill survives close scrutiny and serious review, it should include a mandatory consideration of amendments and reforms a year from now, the same sort of tune-up that CPSIA requires but which embarrassed legislators continue to block.
That’s the problem with ambitious legislative schemes and press-happy senators and congressmen: The latter pass the former and then bow for the applause from special interest groups and MSM, and then the country’s employers have to stagger along under another set of onerous and often business-ending mandates. CPSIA was a practice exam for Congress which it flunked. Why would you trust it to get your health care correct?
And if you are a general counsel or the head of human resources for a business, send me a note about your concerns and what you have advised the CEO and Board. Like the many health care professionals who have sent me e-mails about this increasingly crazy scheme, I’ll publish your note but keep your name off the post unless you’d like it made public. I know some of you are already calculating the savings from off-loading employee health care costs onto the new government plan, but have others of you been puzzling through the mandates and the new costs? Most of the trade associations are simply frozen in the face of the Congressional stonewalling on the details of the plan, but enough has gotten through the smokescreens to begin to assess the impact of at least the new employer mandates on businesses that don’t currently provide health insurance. Unlike the job losses triggered by CPSIA, those that will follow Obamacare are at least easy to see coming even if the MSM refuses to publicize the inevitable lay-offs that will have to take place in order to pay the new mandate bills.
Delay means big trouble for Obamacare because the more people learn the more they realize that this enormously risky roll of the dice has got very little to do with getting the 15% of Americans without insurance under a decent plan and a whole lot to do with expanding the power of the federal government. Voters are waking up –perhaps just in time.