- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2012

The countdown is on for the Supreme Court showdown on Obamacare. As lawyers on both sides prepare their oral arguments for later this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has provided yet more evidence that the federal takeover of health care is a foolhardy endeavor whose price tag far exceeds any imagined benefits.

CBO now estimates the insurance coverage provisions of Obamacare will cost about $1.1 trillion through 2021. Contrary to claims made at the time of passage, Obamacare will indeed impact the federal deficit. The current estimate of the gross costs of coverage provisions is $1.496 trillion - $50 billion higher than previous estimates. Spending on Obamacare will increase federal deficits by $1.08 trillion - a far cry from President Obama’s initial promise of “bending the cost curve” with a “deficit-neutral” program. CBO’s numbers are static projections, and therefore most likely to be lower bounds. The actual figures could easily, and probably will be, much higher.

What do we get for these enormous sums? Very little. The purpose of Obamacare was to reach the uninsured, but there is little evidence that it will make a significant dent in the number of non-elderly people who do not have health insurance. By 2016, some 27 million Americans will still lack health insurance. Even taking CBO’s optimistic, static projections at face value, by 2022, some 22 million non-elderly legal residents in the United States, that is, 10 percent of the population, will not have access to health insurance. Even worse, by then, some “3 to 5 million fewer people will have coverage through an employer compared with the number under prior law.”

The insidious effect of the legislation is to push an increasing number of people into government programs like Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program, further increasing dependency on the government. This arrangement creates another entitlement with its own interest group that will make it that much more difficult to get spiraling federal spending under control.

CBO measures only some of the direct costs and with each report, the estimates are creeping up. These estimates do not include, for example, the unseen and deadweight costs of the plan. They do not include the cost of compliance. They do not include the cost of investment that is not undertaken and jobs that go uncreated. They do not include the cost of forgone innovations in medicine. They do not include the costs of the economic growth that might have taken place if this investment had taken place.

Obamacare is a constitutionally suspect attempt to seize control of a sixth of the American economy. We are being deprived of economic liberties at a tremendous price. At the end of the day, tens of millions of Americans will still be without health insurance, and many who liked their health insurance will be forced into alternatives that the government has deemed fit for them. The social and economic costs of Obamacare reach far beyond what Americans should have to bear.

Nita Ghei is a contributing Opinion writer for The Washington Times.

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