Obamacare hurts more than helps [Commentary]

There is a reason I have written about the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") more than a dozen times (and why it is the most extensive chapter in my new book): The law is the most hurtful legislation imposed on the American people in my lifetime.

But shuffling through daily bits of negative reviews is confusing. And so, as a public service, herein the latest (major) impacts to date:

•We now know the Obama administration never intended for those in the individual insurance market to keep their doctor, hospital or insurance. Obamacare's purveyors were intent on forcing those individuals to purchase the insurance product the government wanted them to have, not the "garbage" products that met their needs and pocketbooks. A weak apology from the president for his repeated misrepresentations notwithstanding, many of the afflicted were suddenly without insurance, while others were forced to pay for services they neither wanted nor needed, e.g., mammograms for men.

The flip side of "one size fits all" in the individual market was less consumer choice. The long list of newly mandated benefits required carriers to narrow their networks of doctors and hospitals. As numerous pundits have pointed out, the new menu was basically four HMO options forced on a population that formerly enjoyed real choice (13,000 different plans, according to eHealthInsurance.com). Alas, the public outcry has been so intense that the president announced a two-year delay on the cancellation of the formerly "inadequate policies." But half of the country's insurance commissioners have said they will not seek to revive policies that the original mandate killed.

The young people who twice put Barack Obama in the White House have wised up to Obamacare's generational bait and switch. Their failure to participate in the exchanges has revealed the law's soft (fiscal) underbelly. The accompanying economics are easy to understand: Without these heretofore easy targets, the law's attempt to transfer wealth from young to old (and healthy to sick) does not work.

Other (less sympathetic) victims are the insurance companies who bought into provisions that hold carriers harmless once medical claims exceed anticipated costs (the so-labeled "risk-corridor" program). Since the administration's own numbers now show an older, sicker population is signing on to the exchanges ("adverse selection"), the companies are looking for the promised fix: a taxpayer bailout. But House Republicans (led by Rep. Eric Cantor) are attempting to peel away these rescue packages. Stay tuned on this one.

The Congressional Budget Office originally estimated that Obamacare would bleed 800,000 full-time equivalent jobs out of the economy. Two weeks ago, the CBO released a new eye popping estimate of a 2.5 million job loss (by 2024). The White House has been in damage control ever since. In perhaps the most revealing demonstration of progressive illogic ever, the administration offered that such impact was not significant since fewer workers will now be concerned with health insurance in their job seeking endeavors.

The infamous medical device tax is the most easily understood of Obamacare's countless deficiencies. This gross receipts tax on medical devices collects dollars regardless of whether the product has produced a profit. As such, it discourages innovation in a field where research and development is already prohibitively expensive. The not so surprising result will be fewer life sustaining inventions and a substantial loss of high tech jobs. Already, major manufacturers such as Stryker and Medtronic have announced significant lay-offs as a direct result of the new levy. And let's not forget that these products lead to longer and more productive lives; not exactly the type of sector you might think the government would target. Republican-generated repeal efforts have attracted a number of Democratic votes in both houses of Congress.

Last week, UNITE HERE (a major union) wrote a letter to congressional Democrats bemoaning the ACA's "threat" to the middle class, including "higher premiums, loss of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage." Just the most recent example of labor's opposition to a bill they once promoted (but were promised would never hurt them). Now, the hurt is becoming all too real.

Negative impacts from Obamacare have become a regular part of daily media coverage. The bill is causing great uncertainty within our employer communities and health care system. And it can't be fixed in its present form (witness another delay in the employer mandate — this time until after the 2014 midterm elections). Give credit where credit is due — the president promised a new era of transparency; this convenient political maneuver intended to protect vulnerable Democrats couldn't be more obvious.

The sooner Obamacare goes away, the quicker people of good faith on both sides of the aisle can collaborate on solutions that work.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.

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