Biden’s Budget Reconciliation Lacks Vision

Biden’s Budget Reconciliation Lacks Vision
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Congress is ready to pass a legislative package that will do far more harm than good. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Right?

What should be a surprise is that so little of what’s in the legislation is being honestly discussed and debated. Congress is smashing legislative norms and threatening to ignore the Senate parliamentarian to push through Joe Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan.

The healthcare provisions alone would be the biggest expansion of government-run healthcare since Obamacare. The legislation includes a Bernie Sanders’ wish list of government interference into America’s healthcare system – $165 billion to expand Obamacare, $300 billion to expand Medicaid, $370 billion to add new Medicare dental, vision, and hearing benefits, and $400 billion for a Medicaid giveaway to home health care unions.

To be clear, the looming Budget Reconciliation package is a disaster –a massive growth of the welfare state with lots of no good, very bad tax plans and special interest boondoggles.

Putting aside the merits or dangers of more government mandates and controls, this enormous bill is a magnet for crony legislation that can’t pass through the Regular Order of Congressional business. Congress loves to use thousands of pages of massive bills to conceal special interest provisions not supported by the American people. These favors can come in the form of special appropriations or a change in the law that benefits one industry over a competing interest.

The Biden Administration wants to move its $3.5 trillion package, including items that will expand social programs, interfere in healthcare, promote climate change priorities, and jam through amnesty for undocumented immigrants. However, hidden in plain sight are provisions and carve outs for special interests. For example, the Biden package includes a proviso on contact lens sales.

What does the issue of contact lenses have to do with budget reconciliation?

American consumers should be leery. Politicians are lagging indicators of how and where resources should be allocated – remember Solyndra? Elected officials are real good at cronyism and doling our special favors, not so good on making smart investments or advancing consumer interests.

The Washington Post reported on September 1, 2021, “The administration and Congressional Democrats are hoping to approve legislation this fall as part of their $3.5 trillion budget plan that would expand the Medicare health insurance program to include free dental, vision, and hearing coverage.” Good. Right? Maybe not.  

The concern is that the optometry sector will use the Medicare provision as a pre-text to push through crony legislation favoring optometrists over consumers. The bills S. 1784 and H.R. 3353 are both misleadingly named the “Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act.” These bills are intended to overturn a consumer protection rule passed unanimously by the Federal Trade Commission that secured a consumer’s ability to purchase contact lenses in the circumstance where an optometrist fails to provide a prescription. There would be no need for this rule if all optometrists gave consumers a copy of their prescriptions, but regrettably many do not.

The contact lens measure can’t pass as a stand-alone piece of legislation because it puts the special interest over the interests of consumers. Congress would be dictating that patients would have to purchase their lenses form Eye Care Practitioners (ECPs) and optometrists. It would make it difficult for consumers to purchase lenses at discount retailers. Bottom line is that without discounter sites, like Lens.com or 1800Contacts.com, patients would be compelled to purchase their lenses from ECPs at higher prices.

Sneaking a provision in a reconciliation package being drafted up by Congress now would not be an appropriate way to undo a commonsense consumer protection rule. Contact lens provisions are not relevant to the Reconciliation package.

Jerry Rogers is the editor of RealClearHealth and the host of the 'Jerry Rogers Show' on WBAL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter @JerryRogersShow.

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