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November 2, 2009
Conversation with my teenager
"Dad, Obama's health care reform sounds good to me."
"Why so, son?"
"It'll pay for everybody's health care, like in Canada."
"Nope. In fact, President Obama says only his critics claim his plan is like Canada's. But his plan will force people to buy insurance. If you don't buy it, you'll be hounded by the IRS."
"What about those too poor to pay?"
"They are covered right now by Medicaid, if they bother to sign up for it. About one fourth of the uninsured are already eligible for a government plan."
"Obama's plan will get rid of the uninsured altogether."
"You think so? The Congressional Budget Office says there will be 25 to 36 million people still uninsured, depending on which proposal you're talking about. By the way, this is all a work in progress. Obama has no proposal in writing."
"Then what is this ‘public option' I hear about?"
"Something Obama wants in any reform package."
"Obama said it will give those profit-making insurance companies some competition."
"Those health insurance companies made little or no profit last year. Many took a loss. The public option would add just one competitor, and a lousy one at that. Obama himself compared it to the Post Office competing against FedEx and UPS."
"Sounds better than nothing, though."
"You could add hundreds of competitors simply by making it legal to buy health insurance across state lines. That would even save the government money."
"But Obama's plan will save money, right?"
"The two plans scored by the CBO so far would cost about a trillion dollars over ten years."
"But I heard the latest plan reduces the deficit."
"By accounting tricks. It will cost a trillion dollars or more; the question is who pays. That plan assumes $900B in new taxes and Medicare cuts. While the tax increases are added over 10 years, the cost of new coverage is added over only five, by delaying its start until 2015. Then they call $250B "doctor payments" instead of health reform. Voila, health care reform reduces the deficit."
"But at least the government can run it better than profit-making corporations."
"The government runs Medicare right now and it will go broke in seven years, one year before I'm eligible."
"You're a conservative, dad. You're biased."
"Prove me wrong, kid, and I won't stop paying for your cell phone -- or your health insurance."