Everybody's Equal Here, Except For The Special People
Some people, writes the WSJ, are more special than lots of other people when it comes to health care "reform":
White House budget director Peter Orszag has claimed that the bill's 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is key to reducing health costs. Yet the Senate Majority Leader's new version specifically exempts "individuals whose primary work is longshore work." That would be the longshoremen's union, which has negotiated very costly insurance benefits. The well-connected dock workers join other union interests such as miners, electrical linemen, EMTs, construction workers, some farmers, fishermen, foresters, early retirees and others who are absolved from this tax.
In other words, controlling insurance costs is enormously important, unless your very costly insurance is provided by an important Democratic constituency.
The Reid bill also gives a pass on the excise tax to the 17 states with the highest health costs. This provision applied to only 10 states in a prior version, but other Senators made a fuss. So controlling health costs is enormously important, except in the places where health costs need the most control.
Naturally, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide how to measure "costs" and therefore which 17 states qualify. (Prediction: Swing states that voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 or have powerful Democratic Senators.)
Who pays for all this? Well, are you a longshoreman, an electrical lineman, a forester, or a member of one of the other special interest groups?
Meanwhile, here's Michigan's Senator Carl Levin paying back Blue Cross for all those campaign contributions. S.A. Miller writes in the Washington Times:
Among the changes Senate Democratic leaders made to the massive health care package unveiled Saturday was giving nonprofit health insurance companies a limited exemption from the excise tax levied on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions from mega-nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The excise tax, or fee, on health insurance companies was expected to bring in $6.7 billion to help pay for the nearly $1 trillion bill, but the exemption for nonprofits won by Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat, could cut the revenue by as much as half.
It was unclear Saturday how the exemption would affect the cost of the bill or how many nonprofits would qualify for the exemption, attained by spending a high enough percentage of revenue on health services. However, the language appeared to clearly protect Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from the fee.
...Mr. Levin's top campaign contributor from 2005 into the 2010 election cycles was Blue Cross Blue Shield, with total contributions of $48,000 from its employees and its political action committee, according to campaign finance data from OpenSecrets.org.
Money well-spent, Blue Cross Blue Shield!