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Michael Waldron: Obamacare a legislative nightmare

Published 10:38pm Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sometime this month, the Supreme Court should publish its decision whether The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or Obamacare, is constitutional.

Since my knowledge of the law is minimal, I won’t try to predict what the Supreme Court might do; however, my fingers are crossed that a majority of the nine justices will find it unconstitutional.  I want the entire law overturned by the Supreme Court because it was conceived in a shameful debauch of cynicism and hypocrisy. It’s a bad law for that reason alone.

From the beginning, it’s been a legislative nightmare. It passed the Senate on Dec. 24, 2009, only after several deals were struck such as the“Cornhusker Kickback” with Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who was offered a higher rate of Medicaid reimbursement for citizens of Nebraska in exchange for his vote (later eliminated in reconciliation).

Next, the House took up the bill, but Congressman Stupak of Michigan led a group of pro-life congressmen who threatened to thwart the Obama administration until President Obama signed Executive Order 13535, which reaffirmed the principles of the Hyde Amendment (no Federal funds for abortion).

Congressman Stupak and others changed sides and the House passed the bill 219 to 212 on 21 March 2010. No Republican voted for the bill in either the House or the Senate. Thirty-four Democrats in the House voted against.

During the debate, supporters of the bill argued that Obamacare would save money in its first 10 years. That’s true only if you count revenues for the entire first 10 years but count expenditures, which don’t begin until several years later as the provisions are phased in, for less than 10 years.

Recent analyses indicate there will be a net increase in the national debt because Obamacare will cost much more than initially thought.

Isn’t that always the case with federal projects? The “Medicare Fix” for doctors’ compensation was left off the Obamacare budget so the cost of Obamacare would look good. Does anybody think Congress won’t approve more compensation for doctors? If they don’t, Medicare would collapse for lack of participating doctors.

Supporters also said that Obamacare would help Medicare even though Washington takes funding away from Medicare to help pay for Obamacare. How could that work? Supporters claimed that Americans could keep their insurance and their doctor. That is true only if employers choose to maintain insurance for their employees. There is a cost-point where employers may elect to pay a fine rather than pay insurance premiums. Employees must then buy either private insurance or get their health insurance from the government.

The promise that Americans can keep their insurance and their doctor was, perhaps, the most cynical promise of all, and it’s patently false.

Already, many doctors are leaving Medicare practice because of the complex web of paperwork required and low compensation.

The Catholic Church in America recently has sued the federal government for changing its position on mandatory contraception coverage as it implements Obamacare. In its sweeping regulation, the Department of Health and Human Services defined what organizations were religious and therefore exempt from funding contraception.

To qualify for a religious exemption, organizations must employ only people from their religion and offer services only to members of their religion. In other words, the University of Notre Dame would only qualify if it admitted only Catholic students.

Even without that major problem, many church organizations self-finance their insurance coverage. In my opinion, contraception should be legal and cheap, but the government has no right to impose that on people who don’t share my opinion and force them to finance contraception directly or indirectly.

Some organizations have applied for waivers so that they can offer mini-med, which are stripped down health plans. Some of the waivers make sense because of the nature of the organization.

McDonald’s, for instance, employs people for short periods of time and at low wages. A full health benefit plan would be too costly. Does that mean that all fast food companies have waivers? I think the answer is no. Obamacare empowered unelected bureaucrats to award favors (waivers). That’s a very stupid and ultimately dangerous political development. The waiver process is only one example where bureaucrats will thrive under Obamacare. There are countless other permissions that must be obtained by doctors, insurance companies, employers and individual Americans.

I can’t believe that Americans want that. I remember hearing Democrats predicting in 2009 and 2010 that Americans will love PPACA as they learn more about it.

What we got was a bill that totaled 2,572 pages. Who in Congress read it? Who understands it? The ex-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, summed up the whole process when she said, “We have to pass the (health care) bill so you can find out what’s in it.”

That should shame every politician who voted for it, because is that any way to run a government? Recent polls indicate that a growing majority of Americans two years after its passage do not support Obamacare.

Obamacare also ignored other, obvious ways to make insurance cheaper: allow free competition among health insurance companies to sell across state lines, import medicine from Canada and tort reform.

The insurance companies sold their souls to the federal government in the hopes of expanding the insurance market. Big drug companies sold their souls to avoid international competition.  Trial lawyers … there is some debate whether souls were a part of their support for Obamacare and their opposition to tort reform.

I’m sure that some will interject, “What about eliminating pre-existing conditions in health insurance and keeping children on their parents’ policies until they’re 26?  My answer is that they are great ideas, but that there are no free lunches. Do you really think that insurance companies won’t pass on actuarial costs to their customers? I think that’s a bad bet.

Finally, let’s discuss the principal legal question in front of the Supreme Court. It’s the question of whether the Federal government can compel

Americans to purchase health insurance. It’s a good idea. Everybody should have health insurance. But what if you want to spend your money on something other than health insurance?

Forgive me while I get personal.  I have type 2 diabetes. It might be a good idea if a government dietician decided what I eat every day. I would be healthier, but I’m 66 years old and an American. I’ll choose what I eat. The government can butt out!

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