The health care ripple effect


Before she pushed the health care bill through Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said to the American people, “We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.” As a doctor, I don’t think Speaker Pelosi and other supporters of this bill fully understood how this bad legislation would harm patient care. In fact, she made a claim the health care bill will actually “save taxpayers money” – and this claim is already being shown as false by President Obama’s Administration. This is why surveys show the American people continue to lose trust in this Democrat-controlled Congress.

As more comprehensive analyses are conducted, new and troubling information is released about what this 2,000-page health bill really means for the American people. Just recently, actuaries at President Obama’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an analysis revealing the bill will not reduce health care spending – instead it further increases national health spending, and it does so at a higher rate than previous estimates. This means the cost of the bill is going to be much higher than what Americans were promised time and again.

Despite all the claims by Majority Democrats who supported this bad bill, the nonpartisan CMS finds that the new bill will likely leave 23 million uninsured; slapping them with a penalty tax of up to $120 billion – $33 billion coming from individuals and $87 billion from employers. Many of these taxes will be collected from middle class taxpayers – further weakening President Obama’s claim that he would not tax any Americans making over $250,000.

In addition, studies show there will be major cost shifting , resulting in millions of Americans being forced from their current health plan. While 25 million out of 41 million people would get subsidies in the new government “Exchange,” others will be paying more than they do now as costs shift. Tens of millions of Americans who have employer-sponsored coverage could see their premiums increase because of this same shift in costs.

As costs of private insurance plans go up, this cost shifting will cause a ripple effect because many will not be able to afford these new higher costs in their health care plan. The result? The CMS study shows 18 million people will have to drop their current plan and opt for the penalty, and 14 million people will be dropped from their employers’ plan.

Enacting the law will put 20.4 million more people on Medicaid/CHIP in 2019, which as we all know from Tennessee’s experience is not going to be an affordable solution. What was not factored in, however, is the 18 million uninsured that will be placed on the Medicaid roles and the 2 million people with employer sponsored care that will enroll in the program for supplemental coverage.

Findings by the CMS show $575 billion in Medicare cuts – even more than originally estimated – could jeopardize access to care for beneficiaries. 7.4 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries could be forced out of the program due to less generous benefit packages. Enrollment would be reduced by a staggering 50% (from 14.8 million to 7.4 million) as the plans reduce extra benefits that they currently offer. Seniors leaving the private plans would still have health insurance under traditional Medicare, but many might face higher out-of-pocket costs. This reduces Medicare Part A and B payment levels and reduces market basket updates, makes cuts to Medicare Advantage, freezes the income thresholds for Part B income, and increases Medicare Payroll tax to keep the system financially solvent.

To sum it up, the analysis shows this bill will increase health care costs – causing a ripple effect – forcing millions to drop their current plan because they simply can’t afford it. Notwithstanding, millions of seniors will lose their Medicare benefits and have a harder time finding a provider. The budgeting gimmicks and flimsy claims Democrats in Congress used to get this bill passed will have real effects and real consequences.

Moving forward, findings in this study are troubling and it is important for Congress to listen to warnings by nonpartisan groups like the CMS. Keeping the welfare of the American people in mind, it is important that Congress prepare for the damages this bad bill may cause. Therefore, I joined others members of the Education and Labor Committee in writing a letter to Chairman Miller requesting that the Committee hold a public hearing to allow Richard S. Foster, Chief Actuary at CMS, to testify and be questioned about the analysis.

Rep. Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee. A native of Tennessee, he earned his medical degree from the University of Tennessee and served two years in the United States Army Medical Corps.

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