Critical Condition

Marx Brothers Fiction

The commentary article in Tuesday’s Washington Post by HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius reminds us of the Marx brothers: “Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?”

She is living in a fantasy world in believing that the health-care overhaul law has made the U.S. health system stronger by, as she claims, lowering health costs, helping small businesses, and making Medicare stronger. Let’s look at the evidence.

Costs: Then-candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 that health-insurance premiums would fall by $2,500 a year for the average American family by the end of his first term in office. As we approach that date, premiums have risen by nearly as much — from $12,680 in 2008 to $15,073 in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And the Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare’s new insurance mandates will increase premiums on the individual market, when the law takes full effect, by an additional $2,100 per family above what they would have been absent the law.

There are at least 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare that will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher premiums, including taxes on medical devices and health-insurance premiums.

Hospitals, doctors, businesses, and consumers all expect health-care costs to rise under the law. By a nearly five-to-one margin, hospital executives expect that the health law will hurt their bottom lines.

Small businesses: Such companies have been reluctant to sign up for the tax credits offered to them in the health-care law because they find them overwhelmingly complex and not worth the frustration. Only 360,000 employers have claimed the credit, which is less than 10 percent of the 4.4 million potential recipients originally projected by the Obama administration. At least 55 percent of small-business owners favor repealing the health overhaul law and 36 percent oppose; 46 percent of them feel that the new law will hurt their business, and only 27 percent think it will help.

Medicare: And the law does not enhance Medicare’s sustainability. Obamacare takes $500 billion out of Medicare to create another new entitlement program. In the words of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this “will not enhance the ability of the government to pay for future Medicare benefits.” That’s because those (elusive) savings will be used to fund other unsustainable entitlements. 

And Obamacare will compromise seniors’ access to physicians. A survey conducted by The Medicus Firm, a national physician-search firm, found that 46 percent of primary-care physicians would leave their practice — or try to leave — as a result of the laws onerous new requirements and bureaucratic compliance. According to a survey conducted by the Doctor Patient Medical Association, 90 percent of physicians surveyed think the medical system is on the wrong track, and 83 percent say they are thinking about quitting.

None of this makes Medicare or the health sector stronger

And one final thought: The Supreme Court did not uphold the health-care law, as Secretary Sebelius claims. Only two provisions of the law were contested before the Supreme Court. The court held one of them to be unconstitutional — commanding the states to dramatically expand their Medicaid programs — but Chief Justice Roberts allowed the provision to stand by making acceptance of the expansion optional for the states. And it allowed the individual mandate to stand only as a tax, claiming that it was not supported by either the Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper provision in the Constitution, as the government claimed.

Many other legal challenges to other provisions in the law remain, but the final verdict will come from the voters in the court of public opinion in November.


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