At the White House's urging, Congress is going to try to overhaul America's health-care system -- a sixth of the entire US economy -- in the next three weeks. The 1,018-page House bill and the 615-page Senate bill are now available for your reading pleasure.
Plenty of juicy and unpleasant details will come dribbling out over the next few days, as analysts and reporters plow through the mind-numbing texts and parse the fine print. But the basic picture is clear -- and it's ugly.
If President Obama signs either bill into law, he'll be breaking a host of promises. Neither the House nor Senate would guarantee that you can keep your private health plan if you like it. Or that patients will retain their relationships with their doctors.
And that bit about cutting the typical family's health costs by $2,500 a year? A howler, if there ever was one. Deficit neutrality? Level playing field for plan competition? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Each bill would create a new government health plan to compete against private insurers. In the House version, this "competition" would take place via a "national health insurance exchange," a new entity run by a "Health Choices Commissioner." In the Senate, a "public plan" would compete against private health plans through federally supervised state entities called "gateways."
Either way, taxpayers would assume the risks. The private plans would be heavily regulated by the government, but otherwise "on their own" -- in a highly qualified matter of speaking.
In the House bill, the government plan would pay doctors and hospitals on the basis of Medicare rates -- rates that are so low that more and more doctors have stopped taking new Medicare patients.
The bill would collect an estimated $818 billion in new taxes over 10 years.
The problem with soaking the rich, though, is that sooner or later you run out of rich people.
These impressive tax and spending schemes, combined with fines and penalties, lie deep in the bills' complex provisions. The congressional leadership hopes that you, like the lawmakers who passed the giant stimulus bill, won't read them. Fool them, and find out what they plan to do to you.
Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the New York Post