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The House’s health care option
Is the House Democrats’ plan to tax the rich and make businesses insure employees a viable way to fix U.S. health care?
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hat happened
The House unveiled its version of health-care overhaul legislation Tuesday. The bill greatly expands health coverage by subsidizing lower-income Americans, penalizing companies that don’t insure their employees, and offering a government-run alternative to private insurance. To pay for this, the bill adds an income surtax on the wealthy and cuts Medicare and Medicaid costs. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
The House plan is “far from perfect,” said Timothy Noah in Slate. But unlike the versions being kicked around in the Senate, it’s at least “a real health-reform bill.” The inclusion of a public option is crucial—the “most important part of any health-care reform”—but the House bill too restrictive of who can sign up. Also, it would be “more egalitarian” to offer one “reasonably generous” public-option plan, rather than three or four tiers.

It would also be more egalitarian, and better policy, to not make “the rich” pay for the bill, said The Washington Post in an editorial. There’s a good case to be made for a more progressive tax system, but “there is no case” for the new surtax on households making $350,000 and up. Leaving aside fairness issues, President Obama will need to save the tax-the-wealthy card for when he gets “serious about the long-term federal deficit.”

The “paradoxical” thing about the House plan, said Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic, is that it should actually lower the deficit-busting cost of U.S. health care. Bringing more people into the insurance pool, and giving everyone a financial stake, wrings inefficiencies out of the insurance market. But even if “the worst happens” and the cost savings don’t materialize, extending economic and health security to “tens of millions” is a “major accomplishment.”

Of course this would cost more than advertised, said Allahpundit in Hot Air. It’s a government program, so we’ll get cost overruns and lower-than-forecast revenue. And in a clever “sleight-of-hand,” House Democrats have kept the bill to $1 trillion over 10 years, as targeted, by keeping the full annual costs from kicking in for five years. If Democrats want to own this bill, “go for it.”

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