Obama's Bait-and-Switch on Healthcare

Friday, 23 Apr 2010 02:43 PM

By Ernest Istook

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It's called “bait-and-switch” — the sales tactic of conning customers into believing they're getting a good product, but then delivering shoddy goods instead.

America, we've been conned.

Government actuaries — the official beancounters for national healthcare — just released the bad news from analyzing how President Obama's new law affects medical costs and insurance. Their verdict? “More Americans will be covered, but costs are also going up,” is how The Associated Press summarized it.

The higher expense is on top of the prior expectations of already-rising costs.

The minimum increase from Obamacare is one percent higher, they report, but the maximum is likelier to be far greater, the analysts warned, because the legislation's projected Medicare savings are probably “unrealistic and unsustainable,” just as The Heritage Foundation and many others have been saying.

So who are these guys who are sounding the latest alarm? They're the professional actuaries at the Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who typically operate with far greater independence than others who make official government projections.

The Congressional Budget Office, for example, must follow rules handed down by Congress. The Office of Management and Budget is an extension of the White House and therefore governed by the president.

The new CMS analysis by law operates independently, and its report carries this disclaimer: “The statements, estimates, and other information provided in this memorandum are those of the Office of the Actuary and do not represent an official position of the Department of Health & Human Services or the administration.”

How downright refreshing! Actual analysis rather than political propaganda!

So what's the difference between CMS' conclusion of higher costs and the sales job used to pass Obamacare? Obama delivered on his campaign pledge to spend taxpayers' money on the uninsured (or at least 34-million of them), but he totally reneged on the larger promise to make medical care and insurance more affordable.

Even if you accept that 45-million are uninsured (a deceptive figure), it still represents only 15 percent of 300-million-plus Americans, meaning that 85 percent have coverage. For them, Obama won votes by repeatedly promising to reduce costs by $2,500 per year per family.

The president flunked by that measure; the CMS report confirms that his plan pushes costs higher instead.

The damage goes even beyond that, however. As Kaiser Health News reported, “The report also warns that Medicare cuts could drive 15 percent of hospitals into debt and could drive people out of Medicare Advantage plans by as much as 50 percent.”

These are part of why the instant unpopularity of the new law is likely to grow even stronger. The Heritage Foundation has taken the lead to explain both why Obamacare should be repealed and how it can be repealed. The backlash keeps growing against the deceptions used to pass the legislation as well as against its actual provisions.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for politicians to promise one thing and then deliver something totally different. But the enormity of this law —reshaping one-sixth of our economy — places Obama's bait-and-switch in a class by itself.

Former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said it well in an article for Politico. Remembering how Obama put down his critics at the White House healthcare summit by saying, “The election is over,” Coleman wrote that the proper retort should have been, “Does that mean your campaign promises are null and void?”

Judging by how Obamacare raises costs rather than lowering them, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).


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