President Obama’s government takeover of health care is just as unpopular now as it was upon being signed into law. Not surprisingly, his administration is playing defense in anticipation of a very lonely and historically hollow one-year anniversary. Instead of reasonably reassessing the shortcomings of the legislation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius placed an op-ed last Monday outlandishly titled “Everyone prospers under health law.” Doubtless other glowing and grossly disconnected defenses will follow. The simple fact is, no amount of spin can disguise the plain truth: Obama’s 2,000-page leviathan was the wrong answer at the wrong time, and has created more problems than solutions.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The president promised that his bill would “bend the cost curve down” and reduce the soaring deficit. This has not been the case.
Instead of tackling costs to make coverage more affordable, Obama elected to expand coverage without reducing costs. This strategy has wreaked havoc on our struggling economy, small businesses, individual coverage, and seniors. The consequence: everyone loses. Expanded coverage without reduced costs has forced — and will continue to force — higher taxes and deficits, while lowering the quality of care across the board.
Amid the growing public concern over his administration’s record deficits, President Obama touted his health spending plan as the solution to the rising cost of medical care that would “bend the cost curve down” and reduce the deficit. Yet upon closer examination, the “savings” Obama claimed with this bill were nothing more than budgetary sleights of hand and fiscal gimmicks.
In the end, his misleading “facts” were exposed, and the reality is worse than we had imagined. As a result of the government’s health care takeover, national health spending will actually increase by an average of 6.3% a year over the next decade. This will fan the flames of an already dangerous fiscal fire. And the devastating fiscal effects won’t occur at the federal level alone, as the states have felt the pinch too. A study from the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce Committees found that Obamacare imposes at least $118 billion in unfunded mandates on the states in its first decade alone.
President Obama also fashioned his government takeover of health care as a “jobs bill.” In this case, as with his failed $821 billion stimulus bill, the promised job gains haven’t materialized. Quite the opposite, in fact. According to Douglas Elmendorf, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will actually reduce employment by nearly 800,000 jobs. Even new opportunities for growth are stillborn under Obamacare, as half of small business owners expect health care costs to rocket in the short term, dissuading them from any new hiring. They look to the future with a sense of uncertainty, which will not yield meaningful job growth.
The president’s most infamous falsehood, however, was his claim that the government takeover would allow Americans who like their current health plans to keep them. This is far from the case. Countless businesses have gone on record saying they will either have to cut benefits or cut employees from coverage altogether because of the legislation’s immensely onerous new regulations. The Obama administration has finally — and begrudgingly — acknowledged this, having now granted over a thousand “Obamacare waivers” to exempt various city governments, loyal labor unions, and well-heeled mega-corporations from the burden small businesses must struggle to meet. It seems waivers are no longer the exception, but the rule.
Sadly, the president’s efforts have been a study in unintended consequences. He sought to extend coverage for children, and now in at least 34 states, it is virtually impossible to buy child-only health insurance He sought to improve access for seniors, but appallingly the president’s own actuaries say that the Medicare cuts built into the law will force as many as 40% of providers to stop seeing Medicare patients or go bankrupt. When the market of Medicare providers collapses, America’s seniors will be forced to seek care in emergency rooms, driving costs higher still and undoing yet another of the president’s laudable, but ill-conceived, goals. The law of unintended consequences is in full effect, leaving patients at the mercy of bureaucratic whim and unable to find affordable coverage.
Americans live in the real world, and we now face Obamacare’s real consequences. The fact that over 1,000 waivers have been granted is a tacit admission that the health care law is fundamentally flawed. What we cannot afford to do is allow President Obama and his liberal allies to continue with their propaganda tour while ignoring the reality on the ground. What may have looked good to some in the halls of Congress is leaving Americans on Main Street behind. Today is a reminder that we need to redouble our efforts over the next two years to retake the Senate and elect a Republican president so we can repeal this job-destroying law once and for all.
Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.