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It's Your Last Chance to Vote: Where Should Roll Call Travel for the Midterm Elections?

Voters Are Right: They’ll Pay a Lot for Health Care Reform

The White House and liberal think tanks insist that health care reform will lower costs, but the public isn’t buying it — and for good reasons.

Practically every aspect of the bills Democrats are considering — from covering the uninsured to taxes on providers, insurance reforms and Medicare cuts — will result in higher premiums for those with insurance.

And unless Congress is willing to impose stricter cost controls than presently contemplated, many experts think there’s little chance of “bending the curve” of national health outlays or premiums.

Moreover, while the Senate’s new privately run alternative to a government-run public insurance plan is a welcome step away from Canadian-style single-payer health care, the idea of allowing people ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare could be an even bigger step toward it.

And, even if President Barack Obama triumphantly signs a health care bill, there’s a political menace in it — taxes and premiums will rise immediately, but most benefits won’t be seen until 2014.

Americans generally aren’t aware of that, and yet a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that by 52 percent to 38 percent, the public opposes Congress’s health care plans and, by 56 percent to 38 percent, disapproves of Obama’s handling of the issue.

Deservedly, though, Republicans aren’t beneficiaries of public displeasure. Voters still trust Obama more than the GOP on health care, 44 percent to 37 percent.

That’s probably because Republicans have harped — often hyped — the negatives about Obamacare while barely mentioning positive alternatives, to the extent that they have them.

On the Senate floor, for instance, Republicans suddenly have become great defenders of Medicare — opposing “cuts” for “grandma” — but as Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) pointed out, the GOP for years has advocated “slowing the growth” of the program, just what Democrats are now proposing.

(Of course, when Republicans proposed it in the past, Democrats howled that they were cruelly “cutting Medicare.”)

The Quinnipiac poll, like most others, shows that the public favors — 56 percent to 38 percent — “giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans.”

My guess is that the words “option” and “compete” elevate support for government-run health insurance, but in any event, it’s dead in the Senate. Negotiators have substituted a system like the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program that relies on negotiation with and competition between private companies.

That should be the design for the whole of U.S. health care reform, modeled on successful programs in Switzerland and Holland, and Republicans would be smart to propose it.

But the Democrats’ new companion idea — allowing people ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare — would expand a government-run program that is already going broke.

Moreover, because Medicare pays hospitals and doctors only 80 percent of what private plans do, the plan would lead to yet more shifting of costs to private payers, raising premiums.

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