Congressman Joe Pitts
Two years ago, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have thought that people would like this bill “once they found out what was in it,” but according to an ABC news poll taken earlier this week, 52 percent still oppose the whole law. The law has never received majority support in this poll.
Even more Americans oppose the individual mandate to force the purchase of health insurance. Over two-thirds of participants in the ABC poll said that the Supreme Court should strike down the mandate. It should be no surprise that the law remains unpopular since it breaks many of the promises made by the President on the campaign trail and during debate.
First of all, the promise that “if you like it, you will be able to keep it” just doesn’t hold up. By the time of the law’s passage, we already knew that millions of seniors would eventually lose their Medicare Advantage coverage because of significant cuts to these programs. While the cuts were supposed to go into effect this year, the administration cynically chose to delay the pain until after the election.
Many small businesses will also see their plans change in the coming years. By the estimate of President Obama’s own Treasury Department, up to 80 percent of small businesses will have to give up their current plan by 2013.
A second major broken promise was that premiums would go down by $2,500 per family per year in President Obama’s first term. Since the President took office, premiums have gone up by an average of $2,213. Approximately $1,700 of that increase has occurred since the law was signed.
Not only has the law failed to control costs, it will actually impose additional costs after it is fully implemented. According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums in the individual market will go up $2,100 per family because of the law’s new benefit requirements.
The third broken promise is that the bill will not add to the deficit. On day one, we knew that budget gimmicks were hiding the truth. The biggest gimmick was the double counting of cuts to Medicare. You cannot take money from Medicare and claim that it is both paying for new health care entitlements and reducing the deficit.
The CLASS long-term care insurance program was supposed to bring in $70 billion to help pay for the law. However, last year the Secretary of Health and Human Services stopped implementing the program because it could not meet financial solvency requirements.
Just recently, the Congressional Budget Office revised their estimate of the law’s costs. Their new estimate was $50 billion higher than the previous year’s analysis. As more regulations are written, the costs will become even clearer and could go up even more.
A fourth broken promise was that it would not raise taxes on middle class Americans. The truth is that the bill contains over a half trillion dollars in tax increases on employers, health insurance companies, medical device companies, and pharmaceuticals. The increased costs are going to be passed on to consumers. Most of the tax increases might be hidden, but there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Finally, President Obama promised that he was protecting Medicare. In reality, his bill took $575 billion from Medicare in order to pay for the new entitlements in the law. This money wasn’t used to preserve the program. The Medicare Trustees still estimate that the trust fund will be empty by 2024.
The law does include a new mechanism to reduce costs, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Unfortunately, these 15 unelected bureaucrats will be working behind closed doors and their decisions will be difficult to overturn even for Congress. Doctors and patients will have no ability to appeal or overturn their decisions in court. Quite simply, IPAB is unaccountable to the American people.
We need real health care reform, but government bureaucracy, taxes, and regulation will never decrease costs. Free market solutions empowering individuals, doctors, and businesses can bring costs down and improve access at the same time.
We’re working on real solutions, but step one has to be clearing the way for honest reform by full repeal of the President’s poor health care law.