Obamacare’s growing list of casualties: first hospitals, then politicians

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It was ominous news indeed for Democrats and the president when three Catholic hospitals in Pennsylvania, on the eve of the midterm elections, announced their imminent closing and implicated Obamacare. Then the two “pro-life” Democrats who represent the districts where the hospitals sit — both of whom supported Obamacare — were fired. Looking ahead to 2012, a growing number of Democrats must secretly want to stop Obamacare before it kills them in the next election cycle.

In October, President and CEO of Mercy Health Partners Kenneth Cook announced the closing of three hospitals in the Mercy Health system and in an interview said, quite plainly, that Obamacare played a role. In response to a pointed question from a local reporter, Cook replied: “Health care reform is absolutely playing a role. Was it the precipitating factor in this decision? No, but was it a factor in our planning over the next five years? Absolutely.” The written announcement issued by the hospital system suggests one reason why: its reference to “lower-than-average reimbursements for care” and “a static population base” point to the reality that Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the nation and will be hit hard by the Medicare cuts under Obamacare.

Cook’s awkward follow-up statement that “many factors” contributed to the hospital closings — apparently a result of pressure from Sister Carol “The Pen” Keehan of the Catholic Health Association (for her work in undercutting the Catholic Bishops on healthcare President Obama gave Sister Keehan one of his signing pens) — does not mitigate that first, unrehearsed and unretracted statement that Obamacare “absolutely” played a role in the hospitals’ closing and “absolutely” was a factor in their demise.

Two of the hospitals killed by Obamacare sit in Pennsylvania’s 11th district, represented for 26 years by U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, who voted for Obamacare despite some misgivings. After 26 years, voters sent Kanjorski packing. Democrat Chris Carney, the other member with a dying Mercy hospital, was likewise relieved of duty. Rep. Carney (Democrat from the 10th district) had said that he would not vote for a bill that would publicly fund abortion. Yet he did just that, and the Times Leader opined that Rep. Carney’s vote for the healthcare bill likely cost him his seat.

Nancy Pelosi instructed members of Congress to pass the bill so they could find out what’s in it; they did, and they are. It promises to increase the cost of insurance for millions of Americans, it is already causing employers to shift costs to employees and even to consider eliminating insurance coverage altogether. And now the election has shown that in its pages were pink slips for sitting Democrats.

Now, after the election, what is the fate of Obamacare? Certainly Republicans who will control the House can withhold some funding from the new law. Any provision requiring annual funding approval by Congress can be thwarted and all new agencies created will need funding in order to operate.

But given that 80 percent of Republicans who voted in the midterm elections want to see Obamacare repealed, and given the fact that it’s impossible to separate Obamacare from the “shellacking” the Democrats took on November 2, perhaps a repeal of the health care law during the 112th Congress is not such a fantasy after all.

Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at the Family Research Council and former chief spokesman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on pro-life matters. Jerry Birmelin formerly represented the 139th Pennsylvania State House District (in the 10th Pennsylvania Congressional District) for 22 years and was chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus.