Obamacare marks third anniversary

Obamacare Marks Its Third Birthday As Law Of The Land

Obamacare turns three years old today. Are you ready to party like it’s 2010?

The law, which was signed on March 23 three years ago after it narrowly passed Congress and only after all sorts of political wheeling and dealing, is viewed favorably by only 37 percent of Americans on its third anniversary according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

In June, the Supreme Court allowed Obamacare to go into effect in a 5-4 decision based on the legal theory, denied by the administration, that it is a constitutional tax.

Despite the “Affordable Care Act” nomenclature, insurers have already warned of sticker shock in terms of premium rate hikes, even though the law won’t fully kick in until 2014.

Insurers have unfortunately already made preemptive strikes:

“Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers. Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.”

It is expected that younger people will also face disproportionately higher premiums (or like everyone else pay a fine to the IRS for opting out of insurance coverage). The Congressional Budget Office has also estimated that about eight million workers will lose their existing employer-provided health coverage under Obamacare which runs counter to the president’s oft-repeated claim that if you like your healthcare, you can keep it. The CBO has also estimated that Obamacare will cost the taxpayer $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years.

Given expected (or already in effect) increases in premium costs, employers with 50 or more employees may find that it’s simply more cost effective to pay the $2,000 fine per full-time worker rather than continue to provide health insurance to their employees, leaving those workers high and dry.

Various employers have already cautioned that they may pass along insurance cost hikes to customers. Other employers are downgrading workers into part-time status so they no longer have eligibility for insurance coverage or purposely keeping headcount below 50 to avoid the law’s provisions — which means ongoing unemployment when jobseekers don’t get hired. House Speaker John Boehner said today that “Far from ‘bending the cost curve,’ Obamacare’s projected price tag has nearly doubled…. businesses large and small are already pointing to the impact of Obamacare as the reason for ‘planned layoffs and a reluctance to hire more staff.”

Despite vocally supporting Obamacare, many politically connected unions have sought and received waivers from the law’s provisions. Federal government employees are not subject to Obamacare’s mandates either.

Dealing with insurance companies pre-Obamacare has been a hassle, so no ordinary person is losing any sleep about the problems of the insurance industry. As much as we might hate insurance companies, Obamacare imposes new taxes that apply to the industry in theory but will be ultimately passed along to the consumer:

“… Obamacare promised to lower premiums for families. But regulators decided to impose a 3.5% surcharge on insurance plans sold through federally run exchanges. There’s also a $63 fee for every person covered by employers. And the law adds a ‘premium tax’ that will require insurers to pay more than $100 billion over the next decade. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation expects insurers to simply pass this tax onto individuals and small businesses, boosting premiums another 2.5%.”

Republicans have voted numerous times to repeal Obamacare but they obviously don’t control the Senate or the White House. Even Democrats are trying to repeal the medical device tax in Obamacare because it is believed that it kills jobs and disincentivizes innovation. The premiums for the Medicare Advantage program, which is popular with seniors, are also expected to rise significantly. Many doctors are projected to take early retirement rather than deal with Obamacare’s complicated regulations.

The federal government is facing an Obamacare-imposed October 1 deadline for setting up heath insurance exchanges in all 50 states and has already acknowledged there could be glitches. A federal government official ominously declared that “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.”

To be sure, pre-Obamacare it was a heartburn-inducing hassle (some of which was driven by existing federal and state government mandates) in dealing with insurance companies for one’s medical care coverage. And costs were exploding. The issue of pre-existing conditions also needed to addressed. Two other serious challenges include overprescribing pharmaceutical drugs and possibly ineffective surgical interventions.

That being said, there is no real precedent, is there, for heavy-handed government intervention — either here or abroad — into the private sector that drives costs down?

Instead of this massive bureaucracy, two incremental market-oriented solutions could have been enacted instead of Obamacare and its thousands of pages of regulations (and more to come) that most of us lack the capacity to process: Allow consumers and businesses to shop for health insurance across state lines, and allow individual taxpayers a tax credit for purchasing their own coverage.

As one component of healthcare reform, Dr. Ben Carson has suggested establishing an inheritable Health Savings Account for each American at birth and let him or her make individual own decisions on how the best way to spend the contributions.

If you are an Obama supporter, are you wishing Obamacare a happy birthday? Are you still confident that the Byzantine nature of Obamacare will make health insurance more affordable and improve healthcare delivery services?

As noted previously, while we often have justifiable antipathy to our bosses and employers and corporations, the obnoxious rich dude who lives in a mansion at the top of the hill, and all the rest, when the forces of class warfare are deployed, the primary “casualties” come from the middle class.

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