Thompson: Health-Care Law Offers Citizens ‘Broken Promises,’ Uncertainty

Rep. Glenn Thompson
Erie Times-News

With rising prices at the gas pump and escalating health-care costs, American families have been seeking economic relief, while the average paycheck fails to keep pace with the cost of living. With the two-year anniversary of one of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative initiatives — the Affordable Care Act of 2010 — we are especially reminded of this unfortunate reality.

In 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” Two years after passage of the Affordable Care Act, American families and small businesses have found out the hard way, with increased taxes, looming regulations and a slew of broken promises, from fictitious cost controls to limitations on consumer choice.

Just recently, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office served a devastating blow to President Obama’s most frequent used tagline, “If you like your present coverage, you can keep it.” CBO issued a report suggesting there will be a net loss of employer-based insurance coverage of between 3 and 5 million people each year from 2019 and 2022. This has the potential for 20 million Americans to lose their insurance coverage over a four-year span.

On the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, I joined the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for a congressional field hearing in Harrisburg to review the law’s impact in Pennsylvania. During the hearing, Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine testified that new mandates on insurance coverage had resulted in premium increases of up to 9 percent.

These figures mirror the national trend, as outlined in a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group that tracks employer-sponsored health insurance on a yearly basis. The Kaiser report shows that the “average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.” This is a far cry from Obama’s 2008 proposition that his law would cut family premiums by $2,500 before the conclusion of his first term in office.

Obama had also promised that he “will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future.” However, an honest accounting of the health-care law finds that it will increase the deficit by hundreds of billions in the first 10 years alone. Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has testified that the law will increase the deficit by at least $500 billion in its first 10 years and more than $1.5 trillion over the decade thereafter.

Correspondingly, further estimates suggest that the law will cost nearly half a trillion dollars more than supporters of the law originally claimed. At a time of severe budgetary constraints, there is only one place to turn in order to keep up with this spending — the wallets of Americans — in the form of tax increases.

Having spent almost 30 years in a nonprofit health-care field, I am acutely aware of the challenges many face when it comes to obtaining reasonably priced health care. And while many of us agree there are portions of the law that are beneficial, such as the ability for adult dependent children up to age 26 to stay on their parent’s insurance, the elimination of excluding those with pre-existing conditions from plans, and the expansion of low-cost clinics into underserved areas, the path the so-called Affordable Care Act provides is unsustainable. We must repeal the law and toss out the negatives while maintaining and expanding upon the elements that are commonly agreed upon.

Over the past two years, as the regulations have been rolled out and the American people continue to learn what is really in the law, the broken promises have continued to pile up, weighing on the backs of small businesses and families.

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the mandate that all Americans must purchase health insurance. While the court’s decision is yet to be made, the verdict has already been cast by the countless American families and small businesses that simply cannot afford the Affordable Care Act.

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