The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the massive cost of the health care proposals that are being considered by Congress deals a crushing blow to one of the most cited selling points for health care reform: that it ultimately will save the taxpayers money. Adding hundreds of billions of dollars of additional health care spending on top of the already staggering federal budget deficit should make even the most ardent proponent of health care reform a bit squeamish. (I also believe that the ineffectiveness of the “stimulus package,” which is increasingly being exposed as classic pork-barrel spending that has done little except cause the federal deficit to balloon, has reduced the public’s willingness to trust Congress as they rush through another sprawling and expensive legislative proposal.)
The health care legislation is a good example of how political considerations often war with prudence. Any legislation that attempts to fundamentally restructure a huge part of our economy — a part of our economy which also involves literal life and death issues — should be the product of careful consideration, thorough hearings, and input from all of the many potentially interested parties. Because the Obama Administration believes that its political clout is waning, however, it has demanded that Congress produce legislation before the end of summer — a deadline which, if met, would guarantee a law that is not nearly as thoughtfully considered as it should be.
I recognize that, in the Clinton Administration, the deferral of health care reform meant the death of health care reform. Many health care reform advocates are afraid that situation could happen again. I’m willing to take that chance, however. This time, Congress should act deliberately and responsibly before it commits the federal government to hundreds of billions of dollars of additional spending obligations at a time when the country already is drowning in debt. Perhaps the sobering reality of the CBO analysis will help to bring that about.