- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Nearly a year ago in January, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Kaine boasted that Obamacare would be “one of the great achievements of this president.” He then went on to claim this “reform will control costs and lower costs for middle-class families” and that it was “an important step toward getting our economy back on track.”

These all sound like fine political phrases, but the real question is: are they true?

Obamacare has been in place for a little more than 20 months, and the picture is finally becoming clear. What we now know is that Obamacare is destroying jobs and opportunity.

At the time it was being debated, Mr. Kaine said this government-run health care legislation is “good news for the health of our economy,” but since its passage we have seen 20 months of unemployment topping 8 percent.

The reasons can be found in Obamacare’s thousands of pages of legislation and regulations.

For example, Obamacare imposes a $2,000 per worker penalty on any company with 50 or more workers that, in the opinion of some government bureaucrat, isn’t providing “adequate” health insurance for its employees. This provision means companies either have to provide government-approved insurance or pay a steep fine.

It also discourages entrepreneurs from growing their small businesses into mid-sized ones because the Obamacare mandate kicks in when the 50th employee is hired. That’s right - a company with 49 employees faces no penalty, but must fork over $40,000 once the 50-employee threshold is reached. And the penalty goes up still further for every additional employee the company hires. Not surprisingly, seven out of 10 small-business owners reported in a recent survey that they have put new hiring on hold.

Small business has always been the engine that has driven America’s economy. Under Obamacare, however, that engine has now been stalled.

In my travels throughout Virginia, I have heard from so many people that Obamacare is adversely affecting small-business owners forced to deal with the new mandates and regulations as many struggle to stay in business. Whether it’s small-business leaders at the Emporia-Greensville Chamber of Commerce meeting or restaurant owners in Prince William and Fairfax counties, they all say the uncertainty and costs associated with Obamacare’s regulations and mandates are hampering or will impede their ability to hire and expand their businesses.

An example of Obamacare’s job-crushing provisions is the new tax on manufacturers of medical devices. Already burdened by America’s anti-competitive tax code, these companies are forced by Obamacare to pay the federal government an additional 2.3 percent tax on their sales to the federal government. Worse still, this tax must be paid even if a company has lost money for the year, as many start-ups do, or is engaged in vital but expensive research and development. At the time President Obama signed Obamacare into law, medical-device companies employed nearly half a million Americans - and now job cuts are being announced.

Other Virginia companies and workers face tough times under Obamacare, too. For example, Norfolk Southern Railway announced in the first quarter of last year it would have to pay a $27 million charge for new health care costs. And Brinks, a Richmond-based security firm with worldwide reach, paid an additional $14 million in taxes because of Obamacare. Even though Mr. Kaine proclaimed this legislative “reform will control costs and lower costs for middle-class families,” it is now clear that the opposite is true. In fact, new data reveal that the cost of health insurance will increase nearly fourtimes as a result of Obamacare than would have been the case had it not passed.

The Office of the Actuary in the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced health insurance costs will rise by nearly 14 percent in 2014 instead of 3.5 percent, as would have been the case had Democrats not pushed through the legislation on a party-line vote.

Simply put, Obamacare is harming our job creators and destroying jobs through taxes and penalties.

We know that this is not the health care reform Americans want or deserve.

Instead of a government takeover, Americans want common-sense solutions that reduce costs, increase access to quality care, and put patients and doctors - not bureaucrats - in control.

When I was governor, working with a Democratic Party majority in the legislature, we overhauled Virginia’s welfare system so it would provide a hand up to those temporarily in need. As a result, Virginia’s welfare rolls shrunk by nearly 50 percent, families regained their economic independence, and taxpayers saved hundreds of millions of dollars. We proved that historic reforms and achievements can be accomplished if leaders are willing to work together as we did in Virginia.

It is crucial that a Congress be elected that will repeal Obamacare and replace it with more personal, quality, cost-effective reforms that make health care more accessible, including options for personalized Health Savings Accounts, and for businesses to obtain lower-cost coverage by joining together with other small businesses to form large insurance risk pools.

Mr. Kaine praised what he considered “strong leadership” when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rammed Obamacare through Congress. But in light of the evidence of Obamacare’s harm, it’s time for us to put Virginia ahead of the harmful polices of Mr. Obama.

Virginia has shown there is a right way to make historic reforms that will help Virginia families and small businesses - not harm them with increased taxes and less-reliable care. We need leadership in Washington that will teach those lessons, not work against the Virginia families and small businesses they are there to serve.

George Allen, former Virginia governor and senator, is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

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