The Magazine

From Awful to Worse

Harry Reid's medical malpractice.

Dec 21, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 14 • By JAMES C. CAPRETTA and YUVAL LEVIN
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Initially, a voluntary Medicare program might attract only a small number of enrollees, especially because those who opt in would be required to pay the full premium. But over time, employers would likely find it convenient to put their early retirees into Medicare to shed some of their costs, providing only wraparound coverage as they do for retirees over 65. Once the opt-in is established, moreover, pressure would build for Congress to ensure "premiums" are affordable. Directly or indirectly, the government would find ways to subsidize enrollment. If established, a Medicare option for the 55- to 64-year-old population would quickly become the default option for the entire age group, and a case for further lowering the age of eligibility would emerge.

And when that happens, those who have fought all year against a new government-run insurance plan will have lost the battle, and those seeking means of actually cutting the growth of health care costs will pretty much have lost the war. The Reid bill already assumes a 15 million-person jump in enrollment in Medicaid, bringing the total enrollment to 60 million Americans. If 20 to 30 million new people end up on Medicare, on top of Medicare's current 45 million enrollees, then more than one-in-three Americans would be covered by government-funded health insurance. A single-payer health care system would be all but inevitable.

Every criticism lodged against Obamacare this year applies to this new "compromise," and at least one more in addition: The only thing it compromises is the chance of reforming American health care for the better.

 

James C. Capretta is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a health policy consultant. Yuval Levin, also a fellow at EPPC, is the editor of National Affairs.