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EDITORIAL: Obamacare’s health hazard

Implementing new law represents danger for Democrats

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bill Clinton predicted a year ago that Obamacare's passage would yield electoral gold for congressional Democrats. "The minute the president signs the health care reform bill," the former president told the Netroots Nation convention in August 2009, "approval will go up, because Americans are inherently optimistic." Last weekend, he admitted the prognostication had been a bit off. "First of all, the benefits of the bill are spread out over three or four years," Mr. Clinton explained to NBC's "Meet the Press." "And secondly, there has been an enormous and highly effective attack on it."

Leave it to Bill Clinton to blame the situation on spin. As the reality of Obamacare begins to sink in, Americans are discovering it may be hazardous to their health.

The main selling point for government-run health care, at first, was cost control. An April study by actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that "national health expenditures under the health reform act would increase by a total of $311 billion (0.9 percent) during calendar years 2010-2019." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare would drive up insurance premiums by around 30 percent in the individual market and up to 3 percent in the small-group market. For the average family, this will mean an additional $2,100 in health care costs. At a Sept. 10 press conference, President Obama admitted that "we knew that."

"We didn't think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free," he said. So much for savings.

Insurance companies and private employers are starting to react to Obamacare's mandated costs and regulations. McDonald's may drop a health plan offered to almost 30,000 hourly workers because new federal regulations make their "mini-med" plan, which was designed for low-wage, high-turnover jobs, too difficult to administer. Such plans offer limited benefits to 1.4 million low-income workers, all of whom are now at risk.

Virginia-based nHealth, which provided services to small employers, is shutting down its operations because of "considerable uncertainties in the market for health insurance." Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in New England is dropping its Medicare Advantage program that resulted from the company's concern for "the long-term viability" of such programs and "concerns about our ability to build a network of health care providers that would meet the needs of our seniors."

Two major Minnesota insurers announced this week that they would stop selling individual policies because of Obamacare's uncertainties. Instead, they are routing policyholders into more expensive plans. Meanwhile, Anthem BlueCross and BlueShield, Aetna, Cigna, CoventryOne, Humana and UnitedHealthCare have stopped offering many child-only policies because Obamacare would force them to enroll children with pre-existing conditions, creating incentives for parents to wait until children get sick before buying coverage and hitting insurance companies with the bills.

Obamacare is also socking small businesses with what amounts to a $17 billion tax increase with a requirement to file a 1099 form for every supplier of more than $600 in goods and services during the tax year. In 2013, Obamacare will also impose a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on all personal unearned income, which would apply to home sales and rental income.

Mr. Obama's repeated promises not to raise taxes on the middle class apparently got lost on the way to a death panel. Mr. Clinton was right to say that Americans are inherently optimistic, which is why the public has hope that a new Congress will stop Obamacare before it can do any more damage.

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