The man-made catastrophe known as the "Affordable Care Act" and "Obamacare" still lurks. And nobody should interpret the absence of daily negative headlines as a sign the law's myriad problems have been rectified, or that there is substance to Harry Reid's claim of "untrue" horror stories following the law's implementation.
So, how much damage has been inflicted now that gross ineptitude in foreign policy has replaced gross ineptitude in health care policy?
Let me count the ways … and lies.
Young people will love it. Not exactly. Obamacare requires insurers to charge the same premium regardless of medical condition and accepts everyone who signs up. This perversion of market economics requires lots of young, healthy people to be overcharged in order to cover the costs of undercharged older, sicker people. When young people said "no, thanks," the White House turned to its allies in Hollywood to change their minds. Plenty remain unconvinced.
Everybody will finally be covered … for less than $1 trillion. A single-payer-friendly president sold the dream of universal coverage. But this summer's enrollment numbers fell well short of coverage targets. Further, the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) original projection of a $938 billion price tag (over 10 years) now surpasses $1.3 trillion.
Health care reform will have little impact on employment. Labor force participation is at its lowest point in 40 years. The recovery has been historically weak and protracted. And the CBO blew the doors off with a February report reflecting an Obamacare-induced projected loss of 2 million jobs (out of the labor market) by 2017 — mostly from workers choosing to supply less labor. Now, three Federal Reserve banks report private sector survey respondents are either cutting jobs, shifting workers to part-time status and/or increasing the employee contribution to their health care plans — all as a result of Obamacare. The bottom line: Americans are working less and in more unproductive ways. Many predicted this response, yours truly included. (See page 195 of "America: Hope for Change.")
You can keep your insurance if you like. Not really. White House memos reveal the president's staff knowingly misled millions of policy holders within the individual market. Over 6 million Americans had their health coverage canceled as a result. Today, additional millions within the group market are finding it equally difficult to keep their physician, specialist and plan. Once the 2013 "Lie of the Year" (per PolitiFact) was revealed, Obamacare apologists retreated to familiar ground. The always dependable "But our motives were good" and "The government knows better than you" were offered as though the misrepresentations used to pass the law should be ignored. Those Americans who have felt the sting of Obamacare continue to take issue with the notion.
The medical device tax as money maker. This one was never sold as good policy, but just another revenue source. And predictions of deep lay-offs in the technology sector have proven correct. A recent industry survey concluded that the tax caused companies to lay-off or avoid hiring 33,000 workers in 2013 alone. Now comes news that revenue will fail to meet projections and that the IRS is having difficulty identifying which companies to tax. Repeal has bipartisan appeal. But Democrats must pressure the president to get it done.
A progressive conscience clause. The president's bullying tactics over religious liberty plays well for the "war on women" audience, not so much in the courts. The "Hobby Lobby" decision was a serious setback for the administration's aggressive re-write of religious conscience clause protection. Looks like The Little Sisters of the Poor and similarly situated charities and schools will win their contraception mandate challenges, too. Seems so many years ago the president promised respect for religious liberty during a highly anticipated speech at Notre Dame.
The typical family will save $2,500 a year. The administration is generally mum on this old campaign promise. The reality is some consumers have seen lower premiums, others higher premiums, and just about everyone is experiencing higher deductibles. I can find no incumbent Democrat running on this particular promise.
Nobody will deny you coverage due to a pre-existing condition. One of the few bipartisan provisions in the legislation could have been accomplished in a simple bill via the creation of federal risk pools. Alas, the provision was incorporated into a 1,200 page monstrosity. Only 107,000 people took advantage of this policy change over the first three years of Obamacare.
Obamacare includes a few good and many bad policies pieced together in order to fulfill a campaign promise. To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, we now know what's wrong in the bill.
Going forward, we must repeal and replace this turkey. A universal tax credit for everyone and health savings accounts for those in high deductible plans is a good first step. So is making Harry Reid Senate minority leader in November.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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