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FEULNER: Obamacare: An alarming checkup

The condition of health care looks critical

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

OK, Obamacare. Up on the table. It's time for your annual physical.

Three years old, eh? Well, with any luck, you'll leave here with a clean bill of uh-oh. I can see one problem already. Have you seen these tax hikes?

Let's see -- five, 10, 15, 18 tax hikes in all. That hardly seems wise, considering the fragile health of the economy, but there they are.

There's the tax on individuals who don't purchase health insurance. That will cost $55 billion over the next decade. I also see a 40 percent excise tax on "Cadillac" health plans costing more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. It'll be $111 billion for that between 2018 and 2022. Several smaller ones, such as limiting the amount people can set aside in their flexible spending accounts: $4.5 billion there from 2011 to 2022.

It all adds up, Obamacare. It's not healthy.

Hate to tell you this, but it gets worse. See this? That's the number of people who are going to lose their current health insurance because of you. Not thousands, but 7 million, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This isn't guesswork; it's already happening.

Take Universal Orlando, which recentlyannounced that it won't continue to cover its part-time workers. Why? Not because they're coldhearted, but because they can't afford it. Your prohibition of annual benefit limits beginning next year is making Universal's health plans too expensive. The word is, this will affect about 500 Universal employees.

Or consider the American Veterinary Medical Association in Illinois. "[M]edical coverage will end for some 17,500 association members and thousands of their dependents at year's end," the group says in a news release. There are many more to come, from other employers. Ouch.

Wait. Obamacare, didn't you say that nobody who liked his current plan would lose it? Yes. You promised it, in fact -- repeatedly. I'd better note that in your chart.

You may be getting uncomfortable, but we're not done yet. Over here, there's another serious problem: You're hurting hiring -- and right at a time when the economy could use all the help it can get to reduce unemployment.

You don't believe it? Look at the "Beige Book," a report that the Federal Reserve publishes eight times a year detailing the economic activity in the Fed's 12 regions. According to its most recent report: "Employers in several districts cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff."

"Affordable Care Act." That's you.

There's more. It's a good thing you're sitting down. It turns out you're making it more difficult to access Medicare services.

You can be as skeptical as you want, but this is right from the Congressional Budget Office and Medicare's own trustees. They've shown what you don't want to admit: You're raiding Medicare to pay for other new programs.

Payment rates for Medicare Advantage: down $156 billion over the next decade. Home health services: down $66 billion. Hospice services: down $17 billion. The biggest one is hospital services, which you cut by $260 billion. What's that? No, the cuts do not target medical institutions or organizations suspected of waste, fraud or abuse. Nice try.

Finally, I see that insurance premiums are going to skyrocket under you. It's those coverage mandates you put in place; they're the culprit. According to a congressional report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, some premiums are set to rise in every state. Yes, every state, and not by small amounts. In many states, they're primed to go up by more than 50 percent; in others, by more than 100 percent. It's all as a result of changes you've introduced.

This despite your claim that your law would "cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year." That sure isn't working out, is it?

You can pay the receptionist on your way out. No, I'm afraid we don't accept that insurance plan anymore.

Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

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