Pre­scrip­tion for Oba­macare: Re­peal it

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

That’s nice of you, my fel­low Amer­i­cans — freely hand­ing over some of your hard­earned dol­lars to poor com­pa­nies that need a break. Ex­cept that the com­pa­nies aren’t poor. They’re large, prof­itable ones such as Amer­i­can Elec­tric Power Co., Proc­ter & Gam­ble Co. and Kroger Co., along with unions and lo­cal gov­ern­ments. And there’s noth­ing free about what you’re giv­ing them. It comes in the form of tax­payer money that sub­si­dizes the health care ben­e­fits they pay to their early re­tirees.

Sound crazy? Wel­come to Oba­macare.

One of the law’s lesser-known pro­vi­sions is the $5 bil­lion Early Re­tiree Rein­sur­ance Pro­gram. Gov­ern­ment plans re­ceived al­most $300 mil­lion of the $535 mil­lion paid out in the last quar­ter of 2010. The Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees’ Re­tire­ment Sys­tem net­ted $58 mil­lion, and $142 mil­lion went to Michi­gan plans such as the United Auto Work­ers Re­tiree Med­i­cal Ben­e­fits Trust. Other re­cip­i­ents in­clude: AT&T Inc. ($141.5 mil­lion). Ver­i­zon Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. ($91.7 mil­lion).

Gen­eral Elec­tric Co. ($36.6 mil­lion).

Gan­nett Co. ($938,551).

The pro­gram is, in short, a bailout. And you and I are pay­ing for it.

Un­for­tu­nately, this isn’t the only flaw in the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture health care ini­tia­tive. Its myr­iad rules and reg­u­la­tions have so many com­pa­nies spooked (and with good rea­son) that the gov­ern­ment has been is­su­ing waivers left and right for months. The Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­cently is­sued 106 tem­po­rary passes, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of waivers to more than 1,470. If this law is so ben­e­fi­cial, why are all these ex­cep­tions nec­es­sary?

High on the list of Oba­macare’s trou­bling symp­toms is whether it’s con­sti­tu­tional to man­date cov­er­age. Most peo­ple agree that health care cov­er­age is a good thing and that it’s un­wise to go without it. But can the fed­eral gov­ern­ment legally com­pel you to buy some­thing, how­ever well-ad­vised it may be?

Of course not. It ex­em­pli­fies the worst as­pects of the nanny state. That’s why the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 11th Cir­cuit re­cently ruled against the man­date in State of Florida v. U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. It’s bu­reau­cratic over­reach, plain and sim­ple.

Let’s not for­get the pres­i­dent’s oft-re­peated claim that if you like your cur­rent insurance plan, you have noth­ing to worry about — no one will take it away from you.

Sur­veys of em­ploy­ers show that at least 1 out of ev­ery 10 com­pa­nies may in­deed ditch the cov­er­age on which many peo­ple rely once the law’s insurance “ex­changes” take ef­fect in 2014. Why? Sim­ple cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis.

“Some em­ploy­ers, es­pe­cially re­tail­ers or those of­fer­ing low wages, feel they will be bet­ter off pay­ing fines and taxes than con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide ben­e­fits that eat up a grow­ing por­tion of their bud­get ev­ery year,” ac­cord­ing to an Aug. 24 As­so­ci­ated Press re­port.

But even em­ploy­ers who take such a step will have to grap­ple with Oba­macare’s other oner­ous re­quire­ments.

That’s sure to hurt an econ­omy still strug­gling to get back on its feet.

As Andy Puzder, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of CKE Restau­rants (Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s), tes­ti­fied be­fore Congress in July, “I’m very con­cerned that in the coming years we’ll be un­able to cre­ate as many jobs as we would like due to the in­creased ex­penses ne­ces­si­tated by laws such as the [Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act].”

Do we need health care re­form? No ques­tion about it. But it needs to be based on per­sonal choice and free mar­kets. We need to find bet­ter ways to get care to the peo­ple who need it most.

That’s not go­ing to come from a mas­sive sys­tem of cen­tral plan­ning, which is what Oba­macare is. It’s time to re­peal it — and fol­low a bet­ter pre­scrip­tion.

Ed Feul­ner is pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion (her­itage.org).

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