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by Pearl Hahn

The grand, sweeping health care reform promised by President Obama during the 2008 election campaign now lies in shambles. Without any possibility of universal health care and the departure of the public option, Americans are feeling betrayed, elated, sad, or just plain confused.

Congress is in tumult, as neither the House nor the Senate has been able to push through a health care bill by the August deadline. However, some pieces of legislation have survived committee and carry dire consequences.

It has been established that coverage will be mandated for both employers and individuals, and that insurance companies would be overseen by a federally regulated market dubbed the “National Health Insurance Exchange”. A significant amount of private insurance will be eliminated immediately as they will not be able to meet federal requirements to participate in the exchange. Others will be eventually driven out of business due to cost-shifting.

While Obama has backed away from a public option, the potential for a national co-operative still exists and poses a significant threat to customers of private plans.  With the ability to offer a wide range of benefits and artificially low premiums, Americans would be pushed out of their existing plan and into the co-op.

How many? Good question. Around 89.5 million Americans, or close to half of the private market.

As the Congressional Budget Office has forewarned, this plan comes at a great cost. More than $820 billion in additional taxes will be squeezed from taxpayers over the next ten years on top of increasing premiums and a growing budget deficit. In fact, the deficit is slated to increase by at least $239 billion over the next ten  years.

More information is available at www.cato.org.

Pearl can be reached at pearl@grassrootinstitute.org