Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Debunking health care myths: the true cost of reform

The conservative movement in this country continues to use scare tactics to win the debate on health care reform. With arguments like the infamous "death panels" coming to kill your grandparents, or how the bill will supposedly allow illegal immigrants to have health care coverage -- with neither claim carrying any weight of truth whatsoever -- it's worth asking: Do conservatives even remember how to argue using facts anymore?

Take the fiscal argument. Even on an issue that seems to be legitimately worth debating, the conservatives can't come up with a reasonable argument against health care reform.

They like to point out the price tag that would come along with the health care package, H.R. 3200, that will likely pass in the house. The cost of implementing that bill, they remind us, will be over $1 trillion! That's nothing to laugh about -- it's a serious amount of cash, worth debating over.

Except there are several things conservatives like to omit from that debate, probably because they start to lose the argument as soon as certain things come to light. For example, that trillion dollar figure? That number is over the next ten years. So, right away, the projected yearly spending for the bill, if we average it, comes to about $100 billion per year. Still, a lot of money -- but the way conservative pundits were putting it, they made it seem like it was one large lump sum.

Then, there's the fact that the trillion dollar figure isn't all deficit spending: in fact, over the ten year period, the health reform bill would only increase the budget deficit by one-fifth that number, roughly $200 billion, or just a little more than $20 billion a year (again, if we're to average things).

The argument, then changes significantly: instead of the perceived large sum all at once (the original fear of $1 trillion), you really have $20 billion per year.

Still, $20 billion per year to the deficit is a lot of money, especially if you're doing it every year for ten years. We shouldn't consider such large sums of money as no big deal.

But there's more to this tragic mistruth set up by the conservative fear machine: according to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit won't be close to that $200 billion figure. In fact, taking into account cost savings and additional revenues in H.R. 3200, the resulting increase to the budget deficit over the next ten years would be $65 billion. Total.

So let's examine this a little deeper: our average yearly deficit spending for health care reform over the next ten years would be about $6.5 billion per year. That amounts to about $542 million a month.

Surely, conservatives could agree that we could cut some government waste to come up with $65 billion over ten years. And if we can agree to that, then why can't we agree that health care reform, at least on an economic level, is attainable?

Conservatives on the far right of things tend to make up stories about how liberals are bad, such as the health care reform forcing seniors to face "death panels," or that Barack Obama isn't a naturally born citizen. But even when debating a subject normally considered a conservative strong suit -- a subject such as economics -- lawmakers and talking heads can't seem to understand the argument past the first sentence. Yes, the program will cost a trillion dollars -- but in terms of deficit spending, it will do minimal damage that can easily be offset through cuts to other wasteful spending.

No comments:

Post a Comment