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Is Senate Health Bill Like NAFTA: Benefits for Few, Steep Price for Most?

By December 24, 2009

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In 2009, the Democratic party under President Obama gave to the American people a superb, long overdue Christmas gift: an unyielding commitment to provide universal health care for every man, woman and child. And soon, legal codification of health care as a right, and not a wealth-based privilege.

The liberal goal of universal health care is a humanitarian necessity in our U.S. democracy which seeks to guarantee "life, liberty and the pursuit of happpiness" for each citizen.

While I heartily applaud the cohesive drive of Senate Democrats and President Obama to "make sure that people who didn't have health insurance could get health insurance," the 2,074-page Senate bill, which the public knows little about, may be too flawed and too vague to make a positive difference in the lives of most Americans.

My hunch is that the Senate/Obama version of health care reform legislation could have much the same economic impact on middle-class Americans as President Bill Clinton's 1993 NAFTA legislation: perhaps 10% of Americans will benefit significantly, while the remaining 90% will suffer a price. And most of all, the measure would greatly enrich corporate coffers.

Here's a partial list of what currently insured Americans don't know if the Senate health care "reform" bill becomes law:

  • How much will my taxes go up if my employer generously pays for a high-quality health plan for employees?
  • How much will my health coverage premiums and co-pay expenses be raised by private insurers to cover their new costs?
  • Will my employer end providing health insurance because it's too expensive under these new regulations?
  • If my employer ends providing health insurance, will I be able to independently purchase the same quality coverage for the same price? Or will it cost me more to obtain less?

Until Congress can clearly explain (or understand?) how the health care "reform" bill will affect the lives of all Americans, no such legislation should be passed!

The very last thing this great country needs right now is for the last vestiges of the U.S. middle-class, which is already reeling from record-high unemployment and foreclosure rates, to be saddled with more health care costs, especially for less health care benefits.

We know how it turned out after President Clinton glowingly exuded in 1993 as he signed portions of the NAFTA agreements:

"NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs... I believe that NAFTA will create 200,000 American jobs in the first two years of its effect... I believe that NAFTA will create a million jobs in the first five years of its impact. And I believe that that is many more jobs than will be lost."

NAFTA, of course, produced nothing near such U.S. job gains. And, as Ross Perot colorfully warned us, that "giant sucking sound" was the sound of millions of U.S. jobs, mainly "high-wage positions in manufacturing industries" being exported to other countries.

Washington Post columnist David Broder summed the Senate health reform bill well today:

"When implemented years from now, it promises to make as many as 30 million men and women who now live with the fear of illness or hospitalization leading straight to financial ruin eligible for the same care as their more fortunate, insured neighbors.

"Six decades after FDR's death, one of his Four Freedoms will, at long last, be guaranteed to almost all Americans. And the shame of this affluent society tolerating the denial of health care to its citizens will be largely lifted...

"But Lord, what a load of embarrassment accompanies this sense of satisfaction!... There is so much that is wrong with it -- and the way it was made -- and, at the same time, so much that is right that you just have to shake your head in despair and in wonder...

"The taint has rubbed off on the bill. This week's Quinnipiac University poll found a majority of Americans disapproving of the legislation by 53 to 36 percent and an overwhelming number -- 73 to 18 percent -- saying they do not believe it will, as promised, reduce future budget deficits. It now becomes President Obama's responsibility to strengthen the bill's cost-saving features... "

In 2010, financially beleaguered Americans would be staggered, perhaps mortally, by another giant sucking sound from their wallets for another starry-eyed Democratic president's much-ballyhooed but horribly misguided legislative mission.


December 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm
(1) Nick Lekas says:

I agree completely with the notion that health care shouldn’t be passed like this, just for the sake of passing something. Howard Deans comments about reconciliation or starting over is the way to go. I pray that the House won’t be ok with the Senate’s version of the bill. Maybe the solution is to make it smaller, tackle individual issues rather than every issue so they don’t have such opposition. Let’s start with anti-trust laws and negotiating drug prices among many other things.

Nick Lekas

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