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Democrats silent on health care concerns

President Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders last week, touting additions to his health care reform bill that were inspired by GOP ideas from the recent summit.

There's a pinch of fighting waste, fraud and abuse. A dash on medical malpractice — not even close to tort reform. A nod to health savings accounts. Even a call to increase Medicaid reimbursements to doctors — because if there's one thing this bill needed, it was more spending.

It's great to see the two parties trying to get along, sharing ideas, engaging and listening. But one thing was missing in the summit and in the days since: answers to the sharp criticisms raised about the Obama/Reid/Pelosi health care bills.

Yet Obama and congressional Democrats charge ahead: "We must have reform. Now. And it must be this Obama/Senate bill."

The public has been skeptical all along, doubting Congress' veracity and its accounting skills. Last month a CNN poll showed only 25 percent in favor of the current Democratic plans, while 48 percent say "start over."

Yet opposition and legitimate criticisms have been largely dismissed, and this was true at the summit, too, when raised by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and others. So let me join Investor's Business Daily and others who have repeated Ryan's concerns, so these serious flaws can be addressed before "reform" is jammed down our throats:

* "If you take a look at the CBO analysis, analysis from your chief actuary, this bill does not control costs; this bill does not reduce deficits. Instead this bill adds a new health care entitlement, at a time when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have."

* This bill "is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors."

* "The bill has 10 years of tax increases of about one-half trillion dollars, with 10 years of Medicare cuts of one-half trillion dollars to pay for six years of spending. What's the true 10-year cost of this bill? In 10 years, it is $2.3 trillion."

* "When you strip out the double-counting and what I call the gimmicks, the full 10-year cost is a $460 billion deficit. The second 10-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit."

* "It takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and counts them as offsets, but that is really reserved for Social Security. So either we are double-counting them or we are not planning to pay those Social Security benefits."

* "It takes $72 billion and claims money from the CLASS Act. That's the long-term-care insurance program. It takes the money from premiums that are designed for that benefit and instead counts them as offsets. The Senate Budget Committee chairman said this is a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud."

* "It treats Medicare like a piggy bank. It raids a one-half trillion dollars out of Medicare. . . not to shore up Medicare solvency, but to spend on this new government program."

* "The chief actuary of Medicare . . . is saying as much as 20 percent of Medicare providers will go out of business or stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage they now enjoy. You can't say that you are using this money to extend Medicare solvency and also offset the cost of this new program. That's double-counting."

* "We don't think we should cut (Medicare reimbursements to) doctors 21 percent next year. . . . It was in the first iteration of all these bills, but because it was a big price tag, and made the score look bad, it has been taken out of this bill and is going along in stand-alone legislation. But ignoring these costs does not remove them from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending does not reduce spending."

* "Are we bending the cost curve down or bending the cost curve up? If you look at your own chief actuary at Medicare, we're bending it up. He's claiming we are going up $222 billion, adding more to the unsustainable fiscal situation we have."

* "We are all representatives of the American people. We all do town hall meetings. We all talk to our constituents. And I've got to tell you the American people are engaged. If you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would respectfully submit, you are not listening to them."

* "What we simply want to do is start over, work on a clean sheet of paper, move through these issues step by step, and fix them, and bring down health care costs and not raise them."

Ryan speaks as the author of a health care plan that would cut costs, extend coverage and not add to the deficit. Obama has continually made the same three promises, but while all Democratic plans extend coverage, they increase costs and the deficit.

Their response to Ryan thus far: "We must have reform. Now. And it must be the Obama/Senate bill."

They're half-right. We must have reform. But it most definitely should not be this bill.

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