The ups and downs of health care

The French philosopher Voltaire warned us that the perfect is the enemy of the good, but is the health care legislation passed by Congress so deeply flawed that it can no longer be considered good? In order to make that determination, let’s first look at the legislation’s merits.

First and foremost, the legislation provides insurance to 30 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. It ends the practice of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. It also allows children and young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26.

In addition, it includes experimental pilot programs that may help reduce health care inflation in the long run.Truthfully, no one knows whether these programs will actually work, but they are a step in the right direction.

Finally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that the legislation will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over the 2010-2019 period. However, these numbers may not be completely reliable.

The legislation has been loaded with dodges that are designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office, but will not actually control spending. Perhaps the biggest and most important of these is the excise tax dodge.

The primary revenue source for the legislation is a tax on high-cost insurance plans, or so-called “Cadillac plans.” The problem is that this tax won’t be levied for another eight years.What would lead anyone to believe that a future Congress will have the guts to accept a trillion dollar tax, when the current Congress refuses to accept a billion dollar tax?

The excise tax dodge was added in the reconciliation bill because the House of Representatives refused to accept the fiscally responsible Senate bill without any changes. For health care reform to be truly successful it must increase coverage and reduce deficits. Unfortunately, the legislation passed by Congress only accomplishes one of these.

Thomas Prieto is a senior majoring in political science. He may be contacted at