Report: Obamacare’s regulatory costs more than double benefits

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The annual costs of Obamacare regulations come in at $6.8 billion a year so far — around 2.5 times the total benefits of its heavy-handed regulations, according to study released Monday.

The federal government’s estimates of Obamacare’s regulatory “benefits” — what they project in increased efficiency or productivity due to streamlined processes and standards — clock in at just $2.6 billion annually, as opposed to the cost of complying with all those regulations, which is almost $7 billion.

By 2014, when all but those delayed parts of the Affordable Care Act have been implemented, regulations have imposed over $27.2 billion in costs upon the private sector and $8 billion in unfunded state burdens, the report by free-market think tank American Action Forum (AAF) found.

A large portion of the costs come from the paperwork burden that Obamacare places upon states and private companies. Implementing the law takes 159 million paperwork hours a year for state governments and the private sector — an amount that would take close to 80,000 employees, working 50 weeks per year full-time. (That’s 40 hours per week, not Obamacare’s 30-hour work week threshold for full-time.)

“These burdens obviously cost states and private entities time and money,” writes AAF’s Sam Batkins, the study’s author, “which could otherwise be devoted to productivity, not regulatory compliance.”

The tallied costs of the Affordable Care Act don’t include the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction that the law will reduce employment by 2.5 million by 2024, for one, or inefficiencies in insurance policy cancellations and widespread problems with federal and state Obamacare exchanges.

Some parts of the law aren’t analyzed at all: federal regulations on the employer mandate — widely lambasted for placing undue burdens on companies large and small — simply don’t include costs, benefits or paperwork requirements. Batkins concludes that when it comes to this cornerstone of Obamacare, “the public has little knowledge of the law’s broader impact.”

Obamacare authorizes at least 11 regulations that will have a significant economic impact on small businesses, including mandatory labeling for restaurant menus and vending machines and payment systems policies, among others. The total bill will be $1.9 billion for small companies, according to the federal government’s public numbers.

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Sarah Hurtubise