Harry Reid got a lot of attention for the health-care deal he announced last night to much fanfare and without many details. It’s been six weeks since Reid announced a similar breakthrough, only to admit later that he didn’t have an actual bill, so maybe some people will again believe that we’re approaching the beginning of the end.
Newt Gingrich, whose Center for Health Transformation has been active in the health-care debate, isn’t one of them. “My guess is this one will collapse,” the former U.S. Speaker and Georgia lawmaker said today over lunch with me, my colleague Jay Bookman and members of his staff.
Here’s why Newt thinks Reid’s bill won’t fly. One of the linchpins is a plan to allow people aged 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare. The idea is that this will help some Americans who have difficulty buying health insurance. But Gingrich called the plan an “actuarial death spiral.”
“Only the sickest people will join, so rates will skyrocket,” he said.
He likened the push to finish a health-insurance overhaul amid a recession with high unemployment and even higher budget deficits — not to mention opinion polls that show a plurality of Americans oppose Democrats’ plans — to “a family getting together in the middle of a deep recession and saying, we’ve always said we’ll go to Disney World, so we’re going to Disney World.”
The Reid plan is also at odds with a hallmark of all Democratic proposals, the expectation that Congress can cut several hundred billion dollars in fraud and waste from Medicare. While there no doubt is plenty of waste and fraud to cut from Medicare, it seems unlikely that Congress will pull this off now when it hasn’t done so before — and especially if we are going to add millions of people to its rolls at the same time.
“Why not extend [Medicare to new recipients] the year after they prove they’ve reformed it?” Gingrich said.
Gingrich also outlined a number of the parliamentary steps required to get a bill through the Senate by the Christmas deadline Reid has set. He said it was his understanding that to pass a bill by then, it would have to have been filed “yesterday or today.”
Considering there once again “is no bill,” that deadline won’t be met.
It’s still not too late to start over.