As problems keep emerging in the struggle to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), long-time critics and former supporters alike face a different kind of struggle: finding words adequate to convey the scale of these problems.
“A train wreck,” was what Democratic Senator Max Baucus called it. Maybe a handier way to depict some of the problems is to imagine where we’d be if, instead of “Obamacare,” we were talking about the “Obamacar.”
This 2010 model rolled off the assembly line at Congressional Motors (CM) with scant attention to quality control. Already Congress has been forced to act nine different times to fix broken parts, including a provision that would have forced virtually everyone who pays anyone anything to file an IRS Form 1099, as if the IRS didn’t have enough to worry about these days.
The U.S. Supreme Court – by a decisive 7-2 margin – struck down another provision that would have forced states to expand Medicaid. If a “50 Worst Laws of All Time” list is ever compiled, the PPACA deserves at least an honorable mention.
Indeed, if an actual vehicle had posed as many risks to highway safety as the PPACA poses to the health of the U.S. economy, federal authorities would have ordered a massive recall.
Congressional Motors also would have been in trouble with consumer advocates for misleading the public on its warranty, namely President Obama’s promise that “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”
Tell that to the unions and others who supported the PPACA but have broken ranks upon learning that they won’t be able to keep many of their health insurance plans after all -- unless they pay sums of money they can’t afford.
Then there’s Mr. Obama’s other guarantee: “If you’ve got a doctor you like, you’ll get to keep your doctor.” Tell that to the patients whose doctors are taking early retirement – or are setting up a “concierge practice” – to avoid the catastrophic effects of the PPACA. Worse, where will Americans find a doctor a decade from now, when the nationwide shortage of physicians is projected to approach 100,000?
That shortage may be only the beginning. Indeed, some bright young people are beginning to ask themselves a sobering question: Why should I hit the books from middle school through medical school, endure an internship and a residency, and potentially amass huge student-loan debts, only to enter a profession where the feds dictate exactly what I can do and what I may earn?
As bad as the blows are to what formerly was a system providing some of the world’s best health care – even to the uninsured – the job-killing PPACA’s blows to the U.S. economy will be worse.
Small businesses, in particular, are already are taking steps to survive. Does the law dictate providing health insurance if a business has 50+ fulltime employees? Cut back to 49 or fewer.
Already approaching 50 fulltime workers? Don’t add any. No wonder 70 percent of the jobs added during the economic recovery are part-time jobs. Does the law mandate providing health insurance even for part-timers who work 30+ hours a week? Reduce their hours.
Such part-timers will now face a double whammy: Reducing their hours gives them less money in their paychecks, and now they’ll be forced to spend a portion of it to buy their own health insurance -- or else pay a “tax.”
As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out during a recent talk at The James Madison Institute’s Tallahassee headquarters, because of this the PPACA will also cause serious ripple effects throughout the U.S. economy. For one thing, it’ll mean that consumers will have less money to spend on other things – dining out, movies, dry cleaning, transportation, housing, etc. These ripple effects will be among the PPACA’s many unintended consequences.
The more Americans learn about the PPACA, the more they realize they’ve been sold a lemon. It’s time to send the Obamacar to the junkyard and look at better healthcare models, which are fueled by marketplace principles that empower consumers not Washington bureaucrats. Those principles could get us where we need to go – even in healthcare - if we’d give them a try.
Dr. J. Robert McClure is President/CEO of The James Madison Institute, a Florida-based non-partisan research and educational organization. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DrBobMcClure.
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