New analysis: Wyden health care plan saves money

The Oregonian reports on a new financial analysis of Senator Ron Wyden's universal health care reform plan. The analysis, conducted by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, finds that his Healthy Americans Act will break even in its first full year of operation - and then create budget surpluses in following years.

From the O:

"They have told us that all Americans can have quality, affordable health care without breaking the bank," Wyden said after emerging from a closed briefing on the analysis with many of his 13 co-sponsors.

Wyden's Healthy Americans Act would replace the current employer-based health insurance system and replace it with a system in which the government requires, subsidizes, and oversees a system of private health care plans that individuals select. The coverage is guaranteed to be as good as that which federal employees receive, and the government subsidizes health care for people up to 400 percent of the poverty level.

The plan is funded by changes to the tax code, including a tax on employers of between 3 percent and 26 percent.

The report released today estimated that if Congress passes the proposal this year, it would take until 2014 to fully implement it. In 2014, the report estimates, the system would break even. In the years following, it would generate surpluses for the federal budget.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Wyden's lead Republican sponsor, called the report "a very gratifying statement to us that we're on the right track."


  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Does the report say anything about how much profit the insurance companies can expect to make?

  • (Show?)
    "They have told us that all Americans can have quality, affordable health care without breaking the bank," Wyden said after emerging from a closed briefing on the analysis with many of his 13 co-sponsors.

    With supporters like's gotta be good!

    • Sen Alexander, Lamar [R-TN] - 8/2/2007
    • Sen Bennett, Robert F. [R-UT] - 5/2/2007
    • Sen Carper, Thomas R. [D-DE] - 12/7/2007
    • Sen Coleman, Norm [R-MN] - 10/1/2007
    • Sen Corker, Bob [R-TN] - 3/13/2008
    • Sen Crapo, Mike [R-ID] - 11/13/2007
    • Sen Grassley, Chuck [R-IA] - 10/1/2007
    • Sen Gregg, Judd [NH] - 8/2/2007
    • Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [D-HI] - 3/13/2008
    • Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [D-LA] - 10/1/2007
    • Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [ID-CT] - 11/13/2007
    • <s>Sen Lott, Trent [R-MS] - 12/7/2007 </s>
    • Sen Nelson, Bill [D-FL] - 8/2/2007
    • Sen Stabenow, Debbie [D-MI] - 10/1/2007

    Norm Coleman! Lamar Alexander! Trent Lott (until he left the Senate)! Joe "insurance company pockets" Lieberman!

    Mmmmm. I'm smelling a great health care plan.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    If Joe Lieberman and Lammy Alexander are on board, then so am I!

  • Pointing out the BS (unverified)

    Of course, a plan can be shown to break even if one is willing to play fast-and-loose with numbers as Republican-leaning elitists in Democrat's clothes like Wyden and his staff are. The preliminary report is here.

    Read it and learn the "surplus" is typical Republican style, stick it to working people to benefit the rich and corporate America, hocus-pocus.

    Part of the surplus is on paper because all premiums would be directed through the Federal budget from people to give to private insurance companies --- ie. this is equivalent to just raising taxes to pay corporate welfare.

    The second part of the surplus is the subsidy paid to lower-income household would only be tied to the premiums for the lowest-cost plan with fewest benefits available --- ie. just another form of cutting federal costs by delivering fewer benefits to tax payers who need and deserve benefits.

    And finally, the third part is the tax deduction available to people would be fixed and not increase with any higher actual costs we incur in purchasing policies --- ie. just another way of reducing tax deductions to reduce costs to the treasury.

    In fact, the plan is a Republican wet dream and shows just how much Wyden is in the pocket of insurance companies. Lo and behold the surplus would get even bigger (remember people are forced to buy private insurance under Wyden's Republican plan) if insurance companies raise their rates for all but one cheap, low-quality plan because revenues that would go from consumers pockets into private insurance companies greedy hands through the Federal budget would go up, and costs in the form of subsidies for low-income people and tax deductions would be fixed or go up much, much less.

    It turns out what out what weasel Wyden and Republican William Bennett did was game the CBO. The asked the CBO that to not compute the costs of Wyden's bill (S. 334) but instead proposed a bunch of typical Republican tricks --- hide tax increases on the poor and middle class and reduce government benefits for the poor --- to show the plan could show a surplus.

    As we see, they at least sold it to the elitist BO Republican-lite propaganda machine.

    How fitting Republican-lite Wyden (and his DLC sponsors), Republican Bennett, and the tools at BO decided to send this Happy "Stick it to Working and Poor People" message on May Day.

  • Pointing out the BS (unverified)

    OK, so explain why the insurance industry and their right-wing friends hate Wyden's bill?

    Well, Jack I think the first question is whether your question is honest because you really aren't informed enough to understand the reason, or if it is propagandistic because you are misrepresenting the actual situation?

    Assuming it's the first, the answer is quite simple: First, what they hate is the notion of any regulation at all on corrupt, corporate America, including private insurance companies. They hate the idea on principle that we ever give any kind of public assistance to anyone, as paltry as it is in this plan. They hate the idea of that health care should be a right, regardless of whether this plan is faithful to that idea (which it isn't). Finally, they hate the general idea of the government compelling anything to do anything, except for those who they don't like of course, regardless of what Wyden's plan specifically compels us to do.

    So the fact they "hate" Wyden's plan has nothing to do with whether Wyden's plan is about ripping off all of us to provide welfare for the private insurance industry who owns politicians on both sides of the aisle. And it has nothing to do with whether Wyden's Republican plan is actually a principled approach to providing universal, affordable health care for all.

    So Jack, now I think you owe it to us to tell us if you really didn't understand the reason the right wing "hates" Wyden's Republican plan, which is fair and it's good you asked the question, or if you really were trying to make an deceiving argument.

  • Matt (unverified)

    Did you see the Bunk study stating 2/3 of doctors in America want National Health Care. The doctors who did this study also conducted one in 2002 and found that the majority of doctors did not want national health care, the problem with this is that the 2 question surveys drastically differ in there 2nd question. I found this article, 60% of Physicians Surveyed Oppose Switching to a National Health Care Plan, It's worth a read.

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    In theory, universal single payer health insurance is the most efficient way to deliver health care.

    In practice, single payer health care is politically unfathomable. Sure, I'd vote for it and the candidate behind it, but it's foolish to attack Wyden -- WYDEN, people, is NOT a conservative!!! Wyden, who went to bat to defend the Oregon Health Plan in the early 90s when Bush I was holding it up so Dems couldn't have a victory on his watch.

    You might also ask how much insurance companies are profiting NOW off the current system before throwing too many stones. I'm for politicians who can pass progressive legislation now, not wax philosophical about how it "could be" in some magical land where insurance companies roll over without a peep.

    That said, we should pay attention to Kitzhaber's project - Archimedes Movement - it looks like he'll be having a big organizing meeting on health care in Portland June 14th.

  • Pointing out the BS (unverified)

    Rose - theorizing exercises in which you are not informed enough in the matter to advance credible theories.

    Your defense of Wyden's (supposed) defense of the OHP is irrelevant to the current issue. The OHP had no impact or relationship to the business of private health insurance companies. And the claim was not that Wyden is a movement conservative, it is that he is a Republican-style pro-corporate sold-out politician and this plan is his effort to deliver corporate welfare to them.

    You probably are just ignorant, but your attempt at defending Wyden suggests you really are in that contingent of misguided, intellectually lazy Oregonians Wyden counts in his base. You arguments about single payer are dishonest attempts to distort the debate: The argument here is that people oppose Wyden's plan because they are defending the Democratic Party and human values he offends with his attempt to rip us off for the benefit of private insurance companies.

    Finally, only a stereotyped, self-entitled, la-la land lazy northwesterner would be so obnoxious as to self-project that opponents are fantasizing about "insurance companies roll(ing) over without a peep". The fact is all the opponents I know actually see this as a matter of an aggressive fight to drive them out because it is the right thing to do. The real question is whether it is time to dump Wyden because he no longer represents what we stand for as Democrats, and instead just is all about benefitting Ron and the corporate interests he prefers to cozy up with, in favor of someone who will actually fight for a better approach to health care approach is an independent debate we should be having. That is, what this really tells us about Ron's integrity and policies should be the issue here if we really want to get an honorable, affordable, and effective health care system in the 111th or 112th Congress.

  • (Show?)
    OK, so explain why the insurance industry and their right-wing friends hate Wyden's bill?

    Easy. "Don't throw us into that there briar patch, Br'er Fox."

    Here's a quote from the full text of the article quoted in the post.

    Bennett noted that the bill's market-based approach to health care is in line with McCain's philosophy.

    Wyden's not a conservative, no, but a health care plan that one of the bill's supporters says fits into John McCain's idea of what a good health care plan, one that is supported by more conservative Republicans than Democrats and where even the few Democrats who support it are mostly from the conservative side of the party is a far cry from even an attempt at progressive legislation.

    Of course the insurance companies are raking in money now, but this plan would create a federal subsidy for their profits as well as a mandate that would require people to buy health care plans for whatever rates the insurance companies want to charge them.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    And let's keep in mind that a member of Wyden's staff, Josh Kardon, is pushing for Hillary.

  • (Show?)

    I hope an admin will fix the itals above.

    Wyden's plan is very explicitly and politically defined and intended to insulate itself from the rhetoric of "socialized medicine." This bothers me because I think we should fight back against that head-on. But the counter-argument, which is getting us to something close to insuring everyone on at least a minimally adequate basis ASAP should be the priority, is one can respect. This essentially is a political argument, not a technical one.

    This story matters in this way: Wyden's plan according to CBO can get almost all people insured at no extra cost to the government than the cost of its current tax breaks to companies which offer insurance. I.e. it won't reduce healthcare spending as a fraction of GDP but it will get more insurance for the federal dollars.

    But the assumption of the story, that the problem would be whether the plan "pencils out" in that limited sense would be in the first year is wrong. The question is what will happen in five or ten years (as the fate of the OHP provides one illustration).

    The reason why so many Republican senators and many business interests outside of insurance might get behind this is that it shifts the responsibility for rapidly rising costs and insurance premiums from the individual companies to the public fisc and individual "healthcare consumers." Those costs are, have been and probably will continue to rise substantially faster than general inflation. So the implication that if it pencils out in the first year, that can only get better, is quite wrong.

    Wyden's plan is both a corporate mandate and and individual mandate plan. On the business side, contribution rates per employee are on a substantially progressive scale with rates rising as numbers of employees rise. On the individual mandate side, there are substantial subsidies at the lower end of the income scale, though less generous than those contemplated in models for HB 329 by the Oregon Health Policy Commission last Spring. I am not sure how they would "pencil out" in the individual budgets of families that cannot afford insurance now (as opposed to the much-agonized-over young healthy population that supposedly opts out of the risk pool despite being able to afford insurance, which if not a myth I think may be greatly exaggerated -- instead the issue is insurers profiting from cherry-picking those people and segregating risk pools).

    At the state level, such individual mandate plans have failed exactly because over time the way they "pencil out" to begin with degrades and they cost more than projected, at which point state legislatures stop paying for them, especially in lean years under tax-caps (OHP is an example, something like is emerging in Massachusetts).

    Since the federal government is not constrained by balanced budget requirements, a similar tendency for Wyden's plan might not lead as quickly to its failure and loss of degree of universality. But if not requiring new revenue is set up as the criterion of success, as here, the politics of maintaining the plan under those circumstances could get very messy, and probably involve shifting increasing costs onto individuals who would not be able to afford them, would end up facing punitive charges from the government, and still might end up doing cost-raising things like using emergency departments for primary care and delaying responses to emerging medical problems to higher cost late stages.

    A couple of questions about which I am not sure relate to the potential for Wyden's plan to become a bridge to government-provided universal health insurance. One is the catastrophic route -- if the plan is adopted and then fails as similar state-level plans have done, could that finally force abandonment of ideological fetishes about only using markets? I.e. for those who want to treat government as the last resort even when it would be much more cost- and health-efficient, would they accept that the "last resort" had been reached?

    Another is whether, if the plan as laid out were adopted, would there be a prospect to amend it subsequently to include a publicly funded Medicare-like plan within it to compete with the "HAPI" plans (hate that cheesy acronym) a la what John Edwards was proposing?

    Finally, a while ago I saw a news story, I can't lay hands on it now, in which Wyden was described as introducing more compromises into his bill as he went around to Republicans seeking their support. What have they been, and how far is he willing to go with them?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I agree with Chris Lowe that "socialized medicine" framing should be confronted directly and discredited. Americans have been shown clearly in support of single payer, but are immobilized by the socialism bugaboo.

  • (Show?)

    "Pointing Out the B.S.", you really should call yourself "Hurting the Cause."

    Every time you write, under this or your various other anon-pseudo-nyms, you include gratuitous and unfounded slaps at the ostensible ignorance or intelligence of people who are necessary parts of any coalition and combination of forces that can get us to government provided universal health insurance.

    There are various obstacles to overcome. One is the self-fulfilling thinking of people who support the idea in principle but say it's politically unrealistic, thereby making it even more so. We need to persuade those people in the first instance to stop contributing their own responses to the political problem of getting from here to there, and instead turn their minds to thinking about how to overcome the other obstacles.

    You, however, apparently lack the minimal political discipline to avoid gratuitously and pointlessly alienating necessary allies. I can only infer that this derives from extremely low self-esteem leading to a compulsive need to lord your ostensibly superior understanding, not actually evidenced by what you write, over other people.

    Your hectoring will not persuade anyone to change their views. And I am pretty sure that there are people who think, "Well, if joining the movement for single-payer means I'm going to have to put up with being insulted and attacked by egomaniacs who supposedly are on my side, no thanks."

    Even for those who might decide that the cause is important enough that they will try to put up with your b.s., you can only demoralize them about the prospects of persuading others, given the likelihood that you will sabotage such efforts with your low-self-esteem narcissistic insults.

    Do you act this badly and treat people so arrogantly in meetings?

    <h2>If your information and arguments really are superior, what you need to do is lay those out without commenting on your interlocutors, whatever you may think of them. If you need to engage in anti-intellectual bullying of this sort, it suggests that your information and arguments really are weak.</h2>
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