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Finding Out What’s In It



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In pressing for passage of the Democrats’ massive and unpopular health-care bill earlier this spring, Nancy Pelosi made the unorthodox argument that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Her assumption, it seemed, was that the fog was created by opponents of the bill, and that people would like what they found out after it passed. But things have not been turning out that way as we have in fact been finding out more and more about what’s in it. Every new wrinkle (and there have been lots in just the month since the bill became law) has seemed only to further darken the picture.

Consider two items that have emerged in just the past two days. First, it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off? Of course, as Fortune’s Shawn Tully points out, that will mean far higher costs to the public than those projected by the Congressional Budget Office and far more disruption and instability than voters were promised: Remember “if you like your plan you can keep it”? Well, not if your employer is given a strong incentive to end it.

It turns out the many critics who argued that exactly this would happen weren’t just pumping out fog after all. And in an extra bit of irony, the corporate memos outlining all this became public because Henry Waxman ordered the companies to turn over their internal health-care memos in preparation for a hearing at which he was going to berate them for reporting the added costs that Obamacare would impose on them. Once his staff actually saw the memos, the hearing was cancelled.

Second, it turns out that the massive bill contained a hidden change in the tax law that will require companies to submit IRS 1099 forms not only for contract workers (as is the case now) but also for any individual or company from which they purchase more than $600 in goods or services in a year. That’s millions of new forms to file and send to vendors and the IRS, and lots of work and expense gathering names and taxpayer ID numbers from every vendor and store a business deals with.

As the fog clears, the case for repeal gets stronger and stronger.



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