DON BRUNELL: Lump of coal in Christmas stocking

Senate Democrats describe their health-reform bill as a Christmas present for the American people. In reality, it is a lump of coal for U.S. taxpayers.

Senate Democrats describe their health-reform bill as a Christmas present for the American people. In reality, it is a lump of coal for U.S. taxpayers.

Fortunately, there is still time to exchange this “gift” for health reform that doesn’t increase the deficit, expand the bureaucracy, increase premium costs and reduce our quality of care.

Rather than President Obama’s vision during the campaign of health-care negotiations broadcast on C-SPAN for all to see, the Senate bill was crafted in almost total secrecy — even most Democrats didn’t know what was in it.

When it was finally exposed to sunlight, opposition was so fierce that the effort to secure the 60 Democrat votes needed for passage turned into a tawdry episode of “The Price is Right” with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid handing out billions of taxpayer dollars — money that will come out of your pocket.

Because the Senate bill greatly expands Medicaid, creating a massive unfunded mandate for cash-strapped states, Senate holdouts wrung hefty concessions from Sen. Reid, paid for with your money.

The first such deal is becoming known as The Second Louisiana Purchase. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got $300 million in additional Medicaid funds for her home state in exchange for her vote to move the bill out of the Democrats’ Caucus.

That $300 million is 20 times the price of the original Louisiana Purchase.

Then, in what opponents are dubbing the “Cornhusker Kickback,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), got an agreement from Sen. Majority Leader Reid to have the American taxpayers completely fund all Medicaid costs in Nebraska in perpetuity.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won a promise of $10 billion in taxpayer money to fund community health centers in his home state, he voted for a bill he had vehemently opposed just days earlier.

All of these senators deny the payments bought their support for the bill.

That’s not all. While the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would reduce the deficit by $130 billion from 2010-2019, there’s more than a little budget gimmickry in the Senate package:

• While the taxes to fund the program would start immediately, most of the benefits won’t begin until 2014. That’s like making car payments for four years without getting the car. The lag in payouts disguises the program’s true costs.

• While the measure predicts $200 billion in savings from the so-called “doctor fix” (cutting Medicare reimbursements to doctors when costs rise too quickly), those cuts have never been made — and again this year, Congress voted not to cut reimbursements out of fear it would drive doctors to drop their Medicare patients.

A Gannett News analysis reports that when all the dubious accounting measures are eliminated, the Senate bill will increase the federal deficit by more than $150 billion. Despite this, the measure will still leave 24 million Americans uninsured.

So, what’s the good news?

There’s still time to stop this train wreck. In fact, the hard work is just beginning. The Senate measure must now be reconciled with the House version.

Some members of Congress have vowed they will never vote for provisions in the other chamber’s bill while others say they will never support it if those provisions are removed.

This gives us time to slow down the process — perhaps even stop it before it drives our entire health-care system off a cliff. There are better ways to expand access to health care, such as allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines, lawsuit reform and making insurance premiums tax deductible.

Not one of these safe, affordable, risk-free solutions is in the House or Senate bill. Contact your members of Congress and ask them why.

Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business.

More in Opinion

More information needed on proposed recycling site

We want to bring awareness to your readers about a 34 acre wood recycling center that is in the permitting process with King County.

North neighbors keep a close eye on the U.S.

How much do you know about Canada? If you’re like most Americans, not much.

Trickle-down equation may not add up, Dems say

A tax overhaul plan drawn up by Republicans in Congress will be a good deal for many households, though not every one, or nearly every one, as promised by its authors.

America’s monster

I’m not sure when it happened, but I recently realized I’ve stopped asking myself, “What are we going to do about mass shootings and gun violence in this country?” Instead, I now ask, “When is the carnage going to come to Enumclaw?”

Avoiding loss means more than gaining something else

Some studies have shown that losses are twice as psychologically powerful as gains. American history and our current political situation help reveal a great deal about the American/human psyche.

Congratulations, Jan Molinaro

In every election, one person must win and the other will lose. Now more than ever, it is important to show our children how to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

Don’t give into the pressure of driving drowsy

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that still challenge me today.

Baxley and Young should have showed up at public forum

On Tuesday, October 17th, was the Black Diamond Maple Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum, where the Black Diamond candidates for Mayor and two City Council positions had the opportunity to talk with the citizens of Black Diamond, and to answer questions put to them by these citizens.

Issues to be addressed in Enumclaw elections

Who should I vote for in the Enumclaw City Council and mayoral races?

Enumclaw helped raise $3,500 for Special Olympics

The last couple of weekends the St. Barbara Knights of Columbus have been involved with our annual Tootsie Roll Program.

Court grapples with school funding

When the legal battle on education funding returned to the state Supreme Court Tuesday, the leader of Washington’s public school system was closely monitoring this installment of the McCleary drama from his office down the street.

Baxley is an important choice for Black Diamond mayor

Judy Baxley has been part of our local civics for years, and thank goodness because citizen involvement is critical to monitoring big developers.