Monday morning, the formerly friendly health insurance industry unveiled a report warning that the proposed health care reform bill could cost families "$4,000 more than projected" on premiums in 2019, according to the Washington Post. Coming after months of collaboration with President Obama and "one day before a critical Senate committee vote," the report--prepared by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group--contradicts the calculation made by the Congressional Budget Office. Whose figure should we trust?
Many conservatives are using the report to poke holes in the Baucus plan, which has looked increasingly likely to pass. Others point to the insurance industry's sponsorship of the report as reason for skepticism, though it could be a worrisome sign of growing tension between insurers and reformers in Congress. The best takes:
- Findings Unsurprising, writes Hot Air's right-leaning Ed Morrissey. "The Baucus plan is chock-full of fees and taxes," he explains, "which Democrats keep insisting will punish those meanie insurance executives and doctors who steal tonsils and feet for big, big money." But, he continues, "[a]s with all such penalties on producers, the costs get borne by consumers." Frankly, he thinks "the $4,000/year increase" number from the insurance report "may shoot a little low."
- Exposes Obama's 'Fictitious Claim that People Will Save Money' Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of right-leaning blog RedState, takes the report at face value. "The ... projections track what The Heritage Foundation and many others have said about the legislation: It does not save money. It simply taxes those who have health coverage and uses their money to give care to others." Erickson calls Obama administration claims of making health care more affordable "a myth."
- Pass the Salt Philip Klein of conservative magazine The American Spectator is a little more skeptical:
Given that study was commissioned by the insurance industry, it should be taken in with a grain of salt, especially because it also argues that costs will increase because there isn't a stronger individual mandate -- a goal of insurers. I'd take issue with this, because for a young and healthy individual who chooses not to purchase insurance, their annual premiums are currently $0 and merely being forced to purchase insurance would increase their costs dramatically.
- Fact-Checking the Report's 'Questionable Assumptions' Jonathan Cohn at left-leaning The New Republic calls the report "pretty damning," but points out that it "leaves out some pretty big things, starting with the subsidies that would help people buy insurance." There are some "fishy" bits elsewhere, too, he says. But Cohn--unsurprisingly, given the liberal-conservative divide on this issue--doesn't think Philip Klein's individual mandate problem is one of those bits: "I suspect PriceWaterhouse Coopers is right about a few things, such as the trouble with a weak individual mandate. AHIP has been raising a ruckus about this and, in my opinion, they are right to do so."
- Pardon My Extreme Skepticism (And Actually, This May Help the Bill) "In the hallowed tradition of the tobacco and energy industries," begins the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "the health insurance industry has commissioned a report ... projecting doom and despair for those who seek to reform its business practices." While resisting "[s]eriously engaging with [the report's] methodology," since that would give the "predictable industry hit job," he argues, "more credit than it deserves,"Klein demolishes "a couple of its more representative moments." The really interesting part of this report, though, says Klein, is that it shows "the insurance industry is getting scared." While it signals an end to the "era of cooperation" with the Obama administration, it also "might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all."