**updated 5/13/10 4:00 AM
Democrats know their new health care law is not gaining any new fans, and the new numbers coming out of the Congressional Budget Office prove what everybody else had been saying all along. The health care legislation is too expensive, and we cannot afford it, but don’t tell that to Congressman Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat. Chasing after Mr. Weiner after he spoke at a union gathering of nurses, I asked him about what he thinks about the CBO coming out with numbers that went way over the projected estimate prior the health care vote in March.
“I think they said $30 billion which makes it approximately a trillion dollar bill, so that’s not way more,” he said. “This is going to save them money. Ask the CBO.”
Wrong, Mr. Weiner…try more like $115 billion, and that is way more. A CBO report was sent to Congressman Jerry Lewis, California Republican and ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday saying that the estimated rise in discretionary spending - which is spending needing yearly congressional approval - over the first 10 years under the new health care law could surpass $115 billion. Part of the letter the letter to Mr. Lewis included (emphasis is mine):
Certain provisions that extend (existing) authorizations with a specified level have
been added. (In the previous version of that table, only new authorizations were
included.) Also, provisions that provide mandatory grants for 2010 but authorize
future spending of such sums as necessary (subject to appropriation) have been
The phrase above appears several times in the letter and later:
For those activities, the lack of guidance in the legislation about how new activities should be
conducted means that, in many cases, CBO does not have a sufficient basis for estimating
what the “necessary” amounts might be over the 2010-2020 period.
Is it any wonder the New York Congressman could not talk about CBO’s latest numbers? CBO is dealing with shabby data from the Democrats to begin with. What is truly frustrating, though, is Congressman Weiner sort of poo – poo’ed the fact the estimate went over by his own wrong number—like it wasn’t a big deal anyway that the health care legislation was voted on and passed under false pretenses.
What about companies like John Deere, Caterpillar, and Verizon who were scheduled to come up to the Hill last month at Congressman Henry Waxman’s, California Democrat, behest. Mr. Waxman wanted them to open their books after the companies announced the new health care legislation would hurt their bottom lines. Those hearings were promptly cancelled, however.
Mr. Weiner, though, has a strange notion that the health care legislation will, in fact, save these companies’ money. He told me, “It’s going to save them a lot of money, because the more people who are covered by insurance, the more competition there is and the costs come down. Employers are the biggest beneficiaries of this.”
Interestingly, the New York Congressman did not think the hearings Mr. Waxman eventually scrapped had anything to do with businesses’ concerns about the health care legislation and their bottom line.
“No that’s a different issue. That’s a tax treatment on how they would have to calculate their taxes going forward on this…. entirely different issue. You should read about it in the Washington Times. They covered the story.”
That’s odd, considering companies like Caterpillar and John Deere told CNNMoney they might as well drop their health insurance plans and pay the penalties. Why did Mr. Waxman cancel those hearings he was so gung – ho about to begin with? Forbes seems to have some ideas:
But those hearings were quietly canceled on April 14th when a memo from the Committee’s majority staff deemed the corporate write-downs “proper and in accordance with SEC rules.” The memo also suggested that the companies recognized that “the overall impact of health reform on large employers could be beneficial.” Media coverage suggested that the companies had backed down, or at least moderated public criticism of reform.
A detail the memo didn’t mention — but which stunned Forbes researchers — was evidence that all four of the companies were actively weighing the benefit of terminating their health benefit plans and sending employees to government pools for coverage. In each case, an analysis by outside consultants showed that paying government fines — the “pay” in “pay or play” — was likely much less expensive than continuing to offer health benefits. Politico notes that AT&T estimated paying fines would cost the company $600 million, a huge savings from than the $2.4 billion they would otherwise spend on health coverage.
Where’s the competition, Mr. Weiner? The only thing that is happening here is that companies are finding it less expensive to pay off a penalty to the federal government if they do not provide a health care program to their employees. Whatever happened to President Obama’s promise, about keeping your health insurance plan? It seems like the health care legislation was designed to be so expensive for private sector businesses, the only place to go for health care is the federal government. That sounds more like a government monopoly, Congressman.