Letter to the Coloradoan

Update: The Coloradoan did publish the letter on Saturday, Mar 27.  Kinda fun.  I notice most of the commenters think that debate amounts to hurling insults back and forth.

Here is a letter I sent off to our local paper, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, in response to Betsy Markey’s rationale for her ‘yes’ vote on the health care bill.  Now to see if they’ll print it!

Kudos for Betsy Markey for explaining her ‘yes’ vote for the health care bills in spite of the overwhelming opposition to the legislation within her district.  Unfortunately, her explanation falls short on several counts. Let’s examine a few of her claims.

Ms. Markey begins by claiming that the deficit will be reduced by $1.3 trillion over 20 years.  This number is sheer fantasy.  Douglas Holtz-Eakin, past director of the CBO, has stripped the bill of the embedded gimmicks and budgetary games (which Ms. Markey conveniently ignores) and concludes the legislation will increase deficits by $562 billion over the next 10 years, not decrease them.  The CBO itself notes that any projections over 10 years are far too uncertain to be credible.

Then there is trumpeting of the ending the denial of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.  Sounds good on the surface but it is lousy economics underneath.  This provision provides a huge incentive for people to avoid the purchase of insurance until they become ill or injured, and then to drop the coverage when the crisis passes, leaving responsible insurance purchasers holding the bag.  This is why there is a mandate for individuals to purchase insurance or pay a fine.  A smart mandate would make the fines larger than the cost of a policy in order to ensure an actuarial sound insurance base.  These bills make the fines much less than the cost of a policy and will lead to the bankruptcy of private health insurance carriers.  I’m sure Ms. Markey’s progressive supporters would applaud this outcome.

She claims that the $463 billion cut to Medicare won’t result in reductions in benefits but by cleaning up “waste, fraud and abuse.”  Right.  Politicians have been jabbering about this for years and nothing has been done.  Ms. Markey doesn’t bother to explain why cleaning up Medicare necessitates a comprehensive overhaul of our health care system.  Seniors, this legislation throws you under the bus.

It would have been helpful to her constituents for Ms. Markey to explain why she was willing to accept all the payoffs contained within the Senate bill.  Of particular interest is the Nebraska ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ that will result in Colorado taxpayers being on the hook for Nebraska’s Medicaid expenses.  Ms. Markey may claim that the House reconciliation bill rescinds the payoffs, but don’t forget that the Senate is under no obligation to accept the House bill, leaving all the payoffs intact.

Finally, Ms. Markey should give her constituents an explanation of why imposing new taxes for 10 years but delaying the delivery of benefits until 2014 is a good thing.  Get ready for number of uninsured to rise markedly over the next four years.

What is particularly striking about her column is her denial of the desire to climb the “political ladder.”  Frankly, this is quite believable.  Ms. Markey appears driven more by ideology than by political calculus.  She thinks that ignoring the will of constituents makes her a “good representative.”  Sorry Betsy, your actions are not those of a good representative, but of a good tyrant.


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