This is hard to believe, but Obamacare is already turning out to be much worse than originally thought. The lies they used to sell this perverse transformation of our economy are collapsing right and left.
President Obama boldly claimed, “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” That was an important selling point because something like 86 percent of insured Americans are happy with their coverage. But it’s not even close to true.
Actually, as early as this September, between 1 and 2 million Americans could lose their insurance because their policies don’t comply with new regulations requiring “no lifetime limit on benefits.” Many seniors in Medicare Advantage plans will also soon be facing cancellation or reduced benefit levels. Scottsdale Mayo Clinic has already notified its Medicare Advantage patients that they need to get care elsewhere.
But it’s worse than that. The recently released regulations determining which employer-based plans will be “grandfathered” and thus not subject to onerous new regulations contained some more bad news.
They are so strict that, according to the mid-range estimate of the Department of Health and Human Services, by 2013, 51 percent of full-time employees will not be in the plans they have today, whether they like it or not. As many as 80 percent of small business employees will be in different plans. In all, 87 to 117 million Americans will soon be forced out of their current health plans by the “grandfather” provisions alone.
You may remember that soon after Obamacare was passed, several large companies, including AT&T, Caterpillar, John Deere and Verizon announced that they were taking write-downs from future earnings based on provisions in the law. Outraged that they were making Obamacare look bad, Rep. Henry Waxman summoned them for one of his notorious Congressional smack-downs.
The session was cancelled when congressional staffers were forced to conclude that “the companies acted properly and in accordance with accounting standards.”
Now these companies are looking at their options for providing employee health care in the coming “Brave New World” of fees, fines and mandates. There’s no question that health insurance will be more expensive with such added features as mandated coverage of “children” until the age of 26 and guaranteed issue, which gives people incentive to wait until they’re sick to buy insurance.
AT&T, for example, already pays $2.4 billion for employee health insurance and would be slated to pay much more. But if AT&T paid the $2,000-per-employee fine to avoid the “individual mandate”, that would cost only $600 million. The employees would presumably get a bump in their take-home pay and would be eligible to purchase highly-subsidized insurance through state exchanges.
Whether or not they were happy with their new government-controlled insurance, the influx of potentially millions of new patients into the exchanges would blow the economic projections through the roof. And there are a lot of AT&Ts out there, all of them making the same calculations.
Then there’s Medicare, which is scheduled for major surgery. The accounting numbers justifying Obamacare were pulled together assuming $500 billion in Medicare reductions. But nobody living on this planet honestly believes that’s going to happen.
The notion of cutting back on waste and fraud has been around forever, but Congress annually repeals its own cuts in provider payments.
Practically speaking, they don’t have much choice. Medicare is on course to become insolvent by 2016, meaning payroll taxes will no longer cover expenses. Long-term liabilities are estimated at $38 trillion. The baby boomers are set to roll into retirement and critical manpower shortages already exist in medicine. It is mouth-gaping, head-knocking stupid to plan on using fictional savings in Medicare to finance a new entitlement.
It’s obvious that Obamacare is going to cost many times more than projected. That’s why this is not just another policy debate. Adding Obamacare’s untold trillions to our current out-of-control spending and unmanageable debt will change the character of our nation forever. The opportunity society will morph into a dependency culture.
Time is of the essence because entitlements, once received, are almost impossible to rescind. We must repeal Obamacare now.
East Valley resident Tom Patterson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a retired physician and former state senator