PI Original Adam Doster Monday March 22nd, 2010, 11:57am

The Faulty Objections Of Illinois' Health Care Opponents

Now that Democrats have passed federal health care reform, we can expect to hear a lot of chatter from opponents about the bill's purported flaws. Most of it is just partisan misinformation.

Now that Democrats have passed federal health care reform, we can expect to hear a lot of chatter from opponents about the bill's purported flaws. Right on schedule, U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk released a statement last night claiming that the legislation "explodes the deficit, increases health care costs and raises your taxes." Read it below:

I support health care reforms that decrease costs and boost access without tax increases or cuts to Medicare,” Congressman Kirk said. “The legislation passed by the House will increase health insurance premiums by $2,300 for 612,000 Illinois citizens, cut Medicare by $500 billion, including Medicare Advantage cuts for 121,722 Illinois seniors, and raise taxes by $500 billion. Caterpillar, a major Illinois employer, would see its health care costs increase by 20 percent, or $100 million, in the first year alone. In the teeth of the Great Recession, this legislation puts thousands of Illinois jobs at risk and stalls an economic recovery. It is unfortunate that instead of passing a bipartisan bill that reforms lawsuits, allows families to buy insurance across state lines and protects the doctor-patient relationship, we are left with a very partisan bill that explodes the deficit, increases health care costs and raises your taxes.”

In the past, Kirk's numbers have not always been trustworthy, so let's break down these claims. First, on the topic of premiums, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the average premium per policy in the individual market under the Senate bill would be roughly $5,800 for individuals and $15,200 for families in 2016. Currently, those premiums run roughly $5,500 for singles and $13,100 for families. About 57 percent of those purchasing insurance in the health insurance exchange would receive federal subsidies to offset the cost of insurance premiums, most by about two-thirds. That leaves 43 percent of the new enrollees -- or 612,000 Illinois families -- paying $2,300 more per month.

However, describing the Senate bill as "increasing" their premiums is entirely disingenuous. Currently, health care inflation is about 5 percent per year. If health care reform was not passed yesterday and that pace keeps up, premiums for families on the non-group insurance market would climb by an average of $3,275 in the next five years. But thanks to the cost-cutting measures in the bill, which are insufficient but not insignificant, the CBO estimates those families who purchase insurance on the individual (and now-regulated) health insurance exchange will see premiums decrease as compared to the status quo.

We've already dealt with the GOP's hypocritical complaints about "cuts" to Medicare and Medicare Advantage. The Democrats are trying to find efficiencies in these programs, particularly the latter, which pays large and wasteful public subsidies to private insurance companies who participate in the program. Kirk, who voted for every single Bush deficit-busting budget, is also incorrect about the long-term cost impact of the bill. The CBO thinks it will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years and $1.3 trillion over the next two decades, all while extending insurance to 32 million Americans.

Meanwhile, the only Illinois Democrat to vote against the bill -- Rep. Dan Lipinski, explained his rationale on Fox's Good Day Chicago this morning. Watch the video below, in which he suggests that President Obama's executive order ensuring that federal funds are not used for elective abortion services could be "overturned by the courts" and the Senate bill is not "fiscally sustainable" in the long-term:

What's confusing about Lipinski's objections is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was able to satisfy members from both the pro-life bloc and the fiscally conservative bloc in her party. On both of those concerns, the politically-safe Lipinski is the outlier.

After voting "Present" on the stimulus bill and "No" on health care, it wouldn't be surprising to see liberals throw some pressure on the Southwest Side representative in 2012.

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