Price Tags

health care reform

I find all of the sudden worry about the cost of health care reform completely and utterly disingenuous. Why? Because some of the same people worrying about the price tag on providing health care to all Americans had no problem backing massively-expensive initiatives when George Bush was President and Republicans controlled Congress.

The price tag for health care reform over 10 years is estimated to be about $1 trillion. But back in 2001, the GOP passed a 10-year $1.35 trillion tax cut package, most of which went to the wealthiest among us.

To me, giving tax cuts to the wealthy is far less important than providing tens of millions of Americans with health care and improving the quality of American health care overall.  Yet, these same people who are telling us that we can’t afford health care reform had no problem supporting those massively-expensive tax cuts.

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Another example is the Iraq War–while the final cost is still unknown, most estimates predict that it will end up being somewhe around $2 to 3 trillion. Once again, I think improving health care and covering the uninsured is far more worthwhile and necessary than the Iraq War, yet the same people decrying the cost of health care reform were markedly silent when Congress was voting for war funding bill after war funding bill.

Now, some people will argue that the difference between then and now is the deficit, but that’s not accurate–at the same time that Congress was passing those massive war funding supplementals, the Bush administration was racking up record deficits. In fact, spending on the war was a major component of those record deficits, yet there was hardly a word about that from the crowd currently chicken little-ing us on the cost of health care reform.

And remember that the reason we have this sizable deficit is because we’re trying to pull ourselves out of the recession and repair the financial crisis, both of which occurred while Bush was in office.

So Republicans passed their own major spending programs, racked up record deficits and drove the economy into the ground, necessitating large amounts of stimulative deficit spending, yet now they have the nerve to turn around and complain about the price tag of health care reform. It’s funny how many newly-minted deficit hawks there are in the Republican Party now that a Democrat is in the White House.

Which is why right-wing complaining about the cost of health care reform is disingenuous. Let’s be honest here, they’re not opposing health care reform because of the price; this is all about the GOP’s love for insurance industry campaign contributions. See, a robust public health care option would provide competition for the bloated insurance companies, forcing them to lower their prices and provide better services while trimming down their fat profit margins. To prevent this, the insurance industry writes big checks to the GOP and the GOP then works to block health care reform.**

The battle lines being drawn here are clear–it’s most of the American people, America’s doctors, President Obama and (most) Democrats versus the insurance industry and Republicans. Who would you rather see succeed?

**Sadly, some Democrats also can’t resist the allure of fat insurance industry checks–Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), for instance, is helping his corporate benefactors by making it his mission to hold up health care reform.