Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

The Costs of the Health Care Bill

Posted on March 14, 2010

In the Wall Street Journal on March 10, there was an article by Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen. Mr. Rasmussen is an independent pollster, and Mr. Schoen was President Clinton's pollster. According to their article, “. . . 66 percent of voters believe passage of the President's plan will lead to higher deficits.” They are right about that. Why do I say that? Because the plan does not include what it costs to prevent the planned 22 percent pay cuts for doctors that serve Medicare patients over the next 10 years.

What we are being asked to believe is that there is a comprehensive health care plan that does not add to the debt.  The problem is that it assumes we are going to pay doctors that serve Medicare patients 20 percent less than we pay them today. That is akin to asking you to come to a horse race without a horse. Does anybody believe a comprehensive health care plan is complete and comprehensive if it does not include what you actually are going to pay doctors to see Medicare patients? Of course not. You have to include that in there. That adds $371 billion to the President's proposal, and that, by itself, makes it clear the proposal adds to the deficit.

According to the survey -- remember this is an independent pollster and a Democratic pollster:

Fifty-nine percent of voters say that the biggest problem with the health care system is the cost: They want reform that will bring down the cost of care. For these voters, the notion that you need to spend an additional 2.5 trillion dollars doesn't make sense. If the program is supposed to save money, why does it cost anything at all?

As Senator Byrd, the senior Democratic Senator, has said: “Sometimes the minority is right.” And it was Alexis de Tocqueville who said, when he wrote his observations about our country in the 1830s, that potentially the greatest threat to American democracy is the tyranny of the majority.

The Senate is supposed to be a place where decisions are made based upon consensus, not just a majority. Senator Byrd has said that running the health care bill through the Senate “like a freight train” would be an “outrage.” He is exactly right.

Instead of all this mess, Congress needs to start over and move step by step to improve health care to make sure we get it right.