Economist Morici: Health Care Bill, CBO Estimates Based on 'Nefarious' Assumptions

December 22nd, 2009 4:39 PM

While Senate Democrats scurry to pass an unpopular health care reform bill by Christmas Eve, CNN did something rare on Dec. 22: they offered two different perspectives on the bill, including a critic's view.

That critic was University of Maryland economist Peter Morici, who expressed skepticism of the assumptions built into the health care reform bill, projected that it would raise costs for many average families and it would add "substantially" the federal deficit.

"There's a lot of assumptions in this bill that are kind of nefarious, uh, and I believe that the typical American family will pay $1,000 to $2,000 more for coverage for a family of four," Morici said.

The professor also provided an example of one of those assumptions saying, "This bill assumes that costs will go down. For example, it's gonna cut Medicare reimbursements next year by 21 percent. That's absurd! That's not going to happen.  The history of these things tells us that."

A study from the Pacific Research Institute found that since 1970, the cost of Medicare has risen 34 percent more per patient "than the combined costs of all health care in America apart from Medicare and Medicaid."

Morici's counterpart in the discussion was Kenneth Thorpe, chair of the Dept. of Health Policy & Management at Emory University, who claimed 18 million self-employed individuals would pay "about 60 percent less" with the bill.

Co-anchor Kiran Chetry asked Morici who the winners and losers would be under the Senate bill. Morici agreed with Thorpe that individuals without group coverage would be helped by the legislation, but said "the losers are typically moderate income - maybe make $40,000 to $100,000 - have group coverage with their employer."

"The cost of that coverage will go up quite substantially and either their employer will pay them less or charge them more," Morici concluded.

The Business & Media Institute has followed the news media's treatment of health care reform all year and found that the cost of reform is frequently ignored by journalists. On the networks, only 20 percent of stories referenced cost estimates of $1 trillion or higher (The CBO put a $1.6 trillion price tag on the bill). The networks also ignored Medicare's "explosive fiscal situation," even in stories about a Medicare-like public option.