Oba­macare: Costs dou­ble in two years

OP­TION Act would lower ex­penses and im­prove qual­ity of medicine

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Don­ald Lambro By Rep. Paul C. Broun

The Supreme Court’s his­toric de­bate over the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Pres­i­dent Obama’s un­pop­u­lar health care law is all about eco­nomic free­dom.

That free­dom has been bat­tered, bul­lied and beaten by the gov­ern­ment over many decades in count­less laws and re­stric­tions, and it will be fur­ther eroded by this ill-ad­vised health care law now be­fore the high court.

At stake in the court’s re­view is whether an all-pow­er­ful fed­eral gov­ern­ment can com­pel Amer­i­cans to buy a health care plan they nei­ther want, need nor can af­ford.

That’s what the law’s “man­date” would do, and any­one, out­side its re­li­gious ex­emp­tions, who re­fuses to pur­chase health in­sur­ance will be pun­ished. The fed­eral at­tor­neys in Mon­day’s first round of oral ar­gu­ments al­ter­nately called the pun­ish­ment a penalty or a tax — although what­ever they may call it, it’s clearly a puni­tive fine meant to force Amer­i­cans to buy a com­mer­cial prod­uct against their will and to sub­mit to the gov­ern­ment’s awe­some power.

All of this will be done un­der the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s Com­merce Clause, which gives the feds the au­thor­ity to reg­u­late in­ter­state com­merce. But 26 states and mil­lions of Amer­i­cans think they’ve gone too far and want the law’s man­date struck down by the high­est court in the land.

What’s at stake here from the gov­ern­ment’s view­point is the fi­nan­cial struc­ture of the health care law that will come crash­ing down like a house of cards if its cen­tral man­date is found to be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The over­haul was sold to the health care and in­sur­ance in­dus­tries with the prom­ise that just about ev­ery­one would be buy­ing into it. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans and busi­nesses with­out health in­sur­ance will buy poli­cies, and that will pro­vide the fund­ing to make univer­sal cov­er­age af­ford­able, or so the the­ory goes.

Take away the forced man­date and you can kiss those po­ten­tial cus­tomers good­bye — and with it the ad­di­tional busi­ness the health care in­dus­try needs to pay for the other in­sur­ance cov­er­age man­dates the Democrats in Congress stuffed into this law.

Mr. Obama and his party rammed this pro­gram through the Congress de­spite op­po­si­tion from or­di­nary Amer­i­cans, strug­gling small busi­nesses and the states who will bear the brunt of higher Med­i­caid costs.

The pres­i­dent had ex­pected that the health care law would be a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal win­ner for him and the Democrats, but it has proved to be a big dis­ap­point­ment. They lost the House and part of the Se­nate in 2010 and are fac­ing daunt­ing chal­lenges in 2012. If any­thing, Oba­macare has be­come even more un­pop­u­lar.

The New York Times re­ported Mon­day that five days of polling last week found that only 36 per­cent of Amer­i­cans “ap­prove of the health care law, while 47 per­cent are op­posed.”

By nearly 2-to-1, those who strongly dis­ap­proved of the law out­num­bered those who said they strongly ap­prove of the leg­is­la­tion, the news­pa­per said.

An ear­lier poll from the Ap-na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter found that 82 per­cent did not think the gov­ern­ment should be able to force them to buy health in­sur­ance or be fined if they didn’t.

Even those who worked to help shape Oba­macare now ac­knowl­edge that the law’s man­date was a mis­take. One of them is Prince­ton Univer­sity’s Paul Starr.

“Democrats man­aged to get them­selves the worst pos­si­ble re­sult: a law that en­flames the op­po­si­tion on the ba­sis of over­reach­ing fed­eral power but may not work in prac­tice be­cause there is no real power be­hind it,” Mr. Starr wrote in the New Repub­lic.

“Whether or not the court strikes it down, the in­di­vid­ual man­date has been one of the most se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal and pol­icy mis­takes of re­cent decades.”

Oba­macare has come with a lot of prom­ises and claims that have proven to be false. Mr. Obama told us in 2009 that his health care plan would cost “around $900 bil­lion over 10 years.” The non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­ported ear­lier this month that it will cost $1.79 tril­lion, and prob­a­bly a lot more in the years to come.

The pres­i­dent and the law’s spon­sors claimed it would re­duce the ris­ing costs of health care and lower med­i­cal in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums. “As a con­se­quence of the Af­ford­able Care Act, pre­mi­ums are go­ing to be lower than they would be oth­er­wise; health care costs over­all are go­ing to be lower than they would be oth­er­wise,” Mr. Obama said in Septem­ber 2010.

But pre­mi­ums have been ris­ing since the law was en­acted and health care costs along with them. Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy econ­o­mist Jonathan Gru­ber, a ma­jor ar­chi­tect of Oba­macare, has told some states to ex­pect pre­mi­ums to rise by 31 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Daily Caller web­site.

“The sad fact is, 31 per­cent may be low­balling the in­crease for most. In some states, it may be over 50 per­cent in­crease,” said health care re­porter Rick Mo­ran of the Amer­i­can Thinker web­site.

Then there’s Mr. Obama’s prom­ise, “If you like your present cov­er­age, you can keep it.” But in a re­cent re­port cit­ing a “tremen­dous amount of un­cer­tainty,” the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice and Joint Com­mit­tee on Tax­a­tion sug­gested that about 3 mil­lion to 5 mil­lion fewer peo­ple each year will be able to ob­tain em­ployer-pro­vided health in­sur­ance cov­er­age be­tween 2019 and 2022.

Oba­macare won’t make health care bet­ter, it will make it more costly, harder to get and frus­trat­ingly bu­reau­cratic.

A Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion sur­vey says pre­mi­ums for a fam­ily pol­icy hit $15,000 last year, ris­ing by an av­er­age of $1,300, three times faster than in 2010. The cul­prits: the health care man­dates im­posed by Mr. Obama.

“The many Oba­macare man­dates to come will raise pre­mi­ums even fur­ther,” says veteran health care an­a­lyst Grace-marie Turner.

The Supreme Court is ex­pected to rule on Oba­macare this sum­mer. The vot­ers will ren­der their own ver­dict Nov. 6.

Two years ago, Pres­i­dent Obama signed into law his mas­sive 2,700-page takeover of our health care sys­tem. Those thou­sands of pages are full of man­dates con­trol­ling ex­actly how pa­tients, doc­tors and em­ploy­ers must han­dle health care de­ci­sions. They also hide bud­getary gim­micks and schemes de­signed to ob­scure the true cost of the bill. Re­cently, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice (CBO) un­cov­ered some of these hid­den costs, and it is clear that the orig­i­nal $938 bil­lion price tag was only a low-ball es­ti­mate. The CBO now pegs the cost at nearly dou­ble — $1.79 tril­lion. Even worse, the CBO also es­ti­mates that nearly 20 mil­lion peo­ple could lose their em­ployer-pro­vided in­sur­ance due to the ris­ing costs of Oba­macare man­dates.

Two years in, there is no ques­tion that Oba­macare fun­da­men­tally warps Amer­i­can health care. Just as I feared, it is break­ing down the pa­tient-doc­tor re­la­tion­ship and plac­ing bu­reau­crats soundly in the mid­dle of the decision-mak­ing process — all at a huge cost to our econ­omy and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Amer­i­can peo­ple want and de­serve bet­ter than the Oba­macare power grab. In or­der to re­form health care while pro­tect­ing our con­sti­tu­tional lib­er­ties and main­tain­ing our free mar­ket sys­tem, I au­thored H.R. 4224, the Pa­tient OP­TION Act of 2012. The OP­TION Act is what true pa­tient-cen­tered health care re­form looks like — it low­ers costs and im­proves health care by giv­ing you more con­trol, not less. The bill is clear, concise and with­out the gim­micks or count­less man­dates in Oba­macare. What you see is what you get.

In just 51 pages, the OP­TION Act puts for­ward sev­eral im­por­tant re­forms that will lower costs while rais­ing the avail­abil­ity and qual­ity of health care. First and fore­most, it pulls out Oba­macare and its coun­ter­part, the Ed­u­ca­tion Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act of 2010, by the roots. It also makes all health care ex­pen­di­tures fully tax de­ductible and ex­pands the use of Health Sav­ings Ac­counts, low­er­ing the fi­nan­cial im­pact of health care both on our econ­omy and Amer­i­cans’ wal­lets. It al­lows in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses to pur­chase health in­sur­ance across state lines, in­ject­ing com­pe­ti­tion into the mar­ket­place to nat­u­rally drive down costs. In ad­di­tion, it makes it eas­ier for groups to form as­so­ci­a­tions in or­der to ne­go­ti­ate for lower in­sur­ance rates on a group-by-group ba­sis.

My OP­TION Act will im­prove health care for needy pa­tients with­out putting de­ci­sions in the hands of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It re­forms Medi­care’s one­size-fits-all ap­proach, cre­at­ing a Pre­mium As­sis­tance Pro­gram like the one of­fered to fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. This gives those on Medi­care more con­trol over their health care, al­low­ing them to choose a plan that best suits them. It also gives tax in­cen­tives to physi­cians who pro­vide free care to those who can­not af­ford it. This strength­ens com­mu­ni­ties, com­bat­ing the idea that the gov­ern­ment can be the only provider of as­sis­tance to those in need.

Amer­i­cans have loudly voiced that they want a doover on Oba­macare. My OP­TION Act is just that, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to the af­ford­able care that so many peo­ple need, while ad­her­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion and strength­en­ing the free mar­ket. It com­pletely re­moves gov­ern­ment from the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship. It is also the only bill to give the pa­tient full con­trol of their cov­er­age — even if they are on Medi­care.

Washington has been forc­ing bills with hun­dreds or thou­sands of pages of de­cep­tion upon the Amer­i­can peo­ple for far too long. With any is­sue, but es­pe­cially one as per­sonal and sen­si­tive as health care, we must fight for sim­pler and more open leg­is­la­tion. My OP­TION Act tack­les many of the fun­da­men­tal prob­lems with health care in ex­actly that man­ner. If you want health care re­form that is gim­mick-free, cen­tered on your needs as a pa­tient, and low­ers costs us­ing our free-mar­ket sys­tem, I urge you to reach out to Washington and let them know you stand with me and be­hind my OP­TION Act.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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