Oba­macare’s mount­ing costs

Each time some­one looks, the health care takeover be­comes more ex­pen­sive

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

The count­down is on for the Supreme Court show­down on Oba­macare. As lawyers on both sides pre­pare their oral ar­gu­ments for later this month, the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has pro­vided yet more ev­i­dence that the fed­eral takeover of health care is a fool­hardy en­deavor whose price tag far ex­ceeds any imag­ined ben­e­fits.

CBO now es­ti­mates the in­sur­ance cov­er­age pro­vi­sions of Oba­macare will cost about $1.1 tril­lion through 2021. Con­trary to claims made at the time of pas­sage, Oba­macare will in­deed im­pact the fed­eral deficit. The cur­rent es­ti­mate of the gross costs of cov­er­age pro­vi­sions is $1.496 tril­lion — $50 bil­lion higher than pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates. Spend­ing on Oba­macare will in­crease fed­eral deficits by $1.08 tril­lion — a far cry from Pres­i­dent Obama’s ini­tial prom­ise of “bend­ing the cost curve” with a “deficit-neu­tral” pro­gram. CBO’S num­bers are static pro­jec­tions, and there­fore most likely to be lower bounds. The ac­tual fig­ures could eas­ily, and prob­a­bly will be, much higher.

What do we get for these enor­mous sums? Very lit­tle. The pur­pose of Oba­macare was to reach the unin­sured, but there is lit­tle ev­i­dence that it will make a sig­nif­i­cant dent in the num­ber of non-el­derly peo­ple who do not have health in­sur­ance. By 2016, some 27 mil­lion Amer­i­cans will still lack health in­sur­ance. Even tak­ing CBO’S op­ti­mistic, static pro­jec­tions at face value, by 2022, some 22 mil­lion non-el­derly le­gal res­i­dents in the United States, that is, 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, will not have ac­cess to health in­sur­ance. Even worse, by then, some “3 to 5 mil­lion fewer peo­ple will have cov­er­age through an em­ployer com­pared with the num­ber un­der prior law.”

The in­sid­i­ous ef­fect of the leg­is­la­tion is to push an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple into gov­ern­ment pro­grams like Med­i­caid or Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, fur­ther in­creas­ing de­pen­dency on the gov­ern­ment. This ar­range­ment cre­ates an­other en­ti­tle­ment with its own in­ter­est group that will make it that much more dif­fi­cult to get spi­ral­ing fed­eral spend­ing un­der con­trol.

CBO mea­sures only some of the di­rect costs and with each re­port, the es­ti­mates are creep­ing up. These es­ti­mates do not in­clude, for ex­am­ple, the un­seen and dead­weight costs of the plan. They do not in­clude the cost of com­pli­ance. They do not in­clude the cost of in­vest­ment that is not un­der­taken and jobs that go uncre­ated. They do not in­clude the cost of for­gone in­no­va­tions in medicine. They do not in­clude the costs of the eco­nomic growth that might have taken place if this in­vest­ment had taken place.

Oba­macare is a con­sti­tu­tion­ally sus­pect at­tempt to seize con­trol of a sixth of the Amer­i­can econ­omy. We are be­ing de­prived of eco­nomic lib­er­ties at a tremen­dous price. At the end of the day, tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will still be with­out health in­sur­ance, and many who liked their health in­sur­ance will be forced into al­ter­na­tives that the gov­ern­ment has deemed fit for them. The so­cial and eco­nomic costs of Oba­macare reach far be­yond what Amer­i­cans should have to bear.

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