As if the 1990-page Pelosi health care bill weren't enough, Democrats today unveiled a 42-page "manager's amendment" that includes a lengthy section about tax breaks for biofuels, including "any cultivated algae, cyanobacteria, or lemna," as well as a provision that would, in essence, raise taxes on businesses by repealing something called worldwide allocation of interest. Neither of these provisions has anything whatsoever to do with health care, but they are in there because the Democrats have to find a way to pay somehow for the health care. The biofuels tax break has been scored as actually raising $24 billion over 10 years, while repealing worldwide allocation of interest reportedly gets another $26 billion. That the Democrats are throwing these revenue-raisers into the health care bill at the last minute suggests that there is some skepticism, or fear, within the Democratic caucus about the effect of the legislation on the deficit. It's worth noting, too, that these revenue-raisers kick in either immediately upon enactment or in 2010, while the health care benefits don't start flowing until much later.
Other fun items in the manager's amendment include the creation of five "offices of minority health" -- one each within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration. There's also an attempt to address the concerns raised about the present to trial lawyers by adding language asserting that "nothing in this section shall be construed to preempt or modify the application of any existing state law that limits attorneys' fees or imposes caps on damages" nor to "impair the authority of a state to establish or implement a law limiting attorneys' fees or imposing caps on damages."
Speaker Pelosi has set up a "fact check" operation to describe criticisms of the bill as being based in myth rather than fact. Here's her account of the present to the nurses' unions that we wrote about earlier:
Myth #6: A provision (Section 2531) that establishes a nurse training grant program to meet the severe shortage of nurses is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit labor unions.
Fact: This provision is a critically important provision that is designed to meet the severe shortage of nurses across the country by creating a federal grant program for the training of nurses. The Republican myth claims that, under the provision, entities would have to work with labor unions to qualify for grants. This is simply FALSE. Under the provision, there are several types of entities that would qualify for nurse training grants – with only certain of those entities being those jointly administered by a health care employer and a labor union.
The dispute reminds us of the Marxist (Chico) question, "who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"