Obamacare drives up health care costs for everyone – San Francisco Chronicle

Obamacare drives up health care costs for everyone -San Francisco Chronicle.

Sally C. Pipes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released their annual report on health care spending in America. And surprise, surprise – spending continues to grow. It amounted to 17.9 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2010, or $2.6 trillion. But the annual rate of growth was lower than it had been most of the past 50 years – just 3.9 percent.

Naturally, the Obama administration took credit for this sliver of good news. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we’re keeping costs down and making health care more affordable,” wrote Nancy-Ann DeParle, deputy chief of staff for policy, on the official White House Blog.

But an in-depth look at that report reveals that Obamacare has done little thus far to slow the growth of American health spending. In fact, the federal health care reform effort is already increasing the share of spending shouldered by taxpayers. Worse yet, the implementation of Obamacare has barely begun.

As the law’s various provisions begin to take effect, the pace of spending will only accelerate. The report was clear about what’s restraining health care spending – and it’s not Obamacare. As the report put it, the “impact of the recent recession continued to affect the purchasers, providers and sponsors of health care.” The agency’s researchers went on to cite “[p]ersistently high unemployment, continued loss of private health insurance coverage, and increased cost sharing” as reasons that “led some people to forgo care or seek less costly alternatives.” In other words, it’s the economy, stupid.

Obamacare may have actually increased national health spending. According to the centers’ report, “the projected net effect of (Obamacare’s) provisions on health spending in 2010 was approximately 0.2 percentage point.” That’s not much of an increase – but it’s an increase nonetheless. Senate Republicans have pointed out that the centers’ latest report is consistent with its April 2010 prediction that Obamacare would increase national health spending by $311 billion in the next decade.

And the government has gotten a head start on all that new spending. Federal health care disbursements increased from $530 billion in 2007 to $743 billion in 2010 – a jump of 40 percent. Medicare spending grew at a 5 percent clip, while Medicaid spending rose 7.2 percent, more slowly than the previous year. As a percentage of total health care spending, federal, state and local government expenditures increased from 41 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2010.

The president’s health care law will only exacerbate these long-term trends once it goes fully into effect. In 2014, the centers project that health spending will rise 8.3 percent, thanks in large part to Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to bring health care to 30 million more Americans and its new subsidies for Americans to purchase health insurance in the state-based exchanges. And by 2020, officials estimate that government will account for half of American health care expenditures.

But what about private health insurance? While campaigning for the White House, President Obama repeatedly pledged that his health reform package would lower the average family’s annual premiums $2,500 by the end of his first term. He’s got about a year to fulfill his promise – and it doesn’t look as if he’ll succeed. The report pegged the growth in spending for health insurance premiums at 2.4 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveal that the average annual premium for family coverage hit $15,073 in 2011, a 9 percent increase over 2010. And according to a survey conducted by the Mercer consultancy, employers expect the cost of health benefits to rise by 5 percent this year.

With all these data in the mix, it’s hard to see how the White House could crow about “keeping costs down and making health care more affordable.” Instead, Obamacare is driving up health costs for Americans today – and saddling the next generation with trillions of dollars in new health care liabilities.

Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle and Replace Obamacare,” (Regnery 2012).

Is Liberalism a Religion? – John C. Goodman – Townhall Conservative

Is Liberalism a Religion? – John C. Goodman – Townhall Conservative.

When people make statements that are completely at variance with reality and they continue to repeat them and you know they are not crazy, it’s only natural to wonder, what’s going on?

I’ve concluded that for some people on the left, political beliefs are like a false religion in which the parishioners become unable to distinguish myth from reality.

How else can you explain the statements of Donald Berwick, President Obama’s recess appointee to run Medicare and Medicaid, on his way out of office the other day? For starters, he claimed that the Affordable Care Act (what some people call ObamaCare) “is making health care a basic human right.” Then he went on to say that because of the new law, “we are a nation headed for justice, for fairness and justice in access to care.”

Now I can’t claim to have read everything in the 2,700-page law, but I can assure you that “making health care a right” just isn’t in there. Nor is there anything in the new law that makes the role of government more “just” or “fair.”

To the contrary, a lot of knowledgeable people (not just conservative critics) are predicting that access to care is going to be more difficult for our most vulnerable populations. That appears to have been the experience in Massachusetts, which Obama cites as the model for the new federal reforms. It’s not that Massachusetts tried and failed to expand access to care. It didn’t even try.

True enough, Massachusetts cut the number of uninsured in that state in half through Governor Romney’s health reform. But it didn’t create any new doctors. The state expanded the demand for care, but it did nothing to expand supply. More people than ever are trying to get care, but because there was no increase in medical services, it has become more difficult than ever to actually see a doctor.

And far from fair, the new federal health law will give some people health insurance subsidies that are as much as $20,000 more than the subsidies available to other people at the same level of income. In fact, the new system of health insurance subsidies is about as arbitrary as it can be.

Berwick isn’t alone in making bizarre statements about health reform. Right after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, administration health advisors Robert Kocher, Ezekiel Emanuel and Nancy-Ann DeParle announced that the new health reform law “guarantees access to health care for all Americans.”

In fact, nothing in the act guarantees access to care for any America, let alone all Americans. Far from it. Again, take Massachusetts as the precedent. The waiting time to see a new family practice doctor in Boston (63 days) is longer than in any other major U.S. city. In a sense, a new patient seeking care in Boston has less access to care than in just about every other U.S. city!

The disconnect between belief and reality is not unique to our country. With the enactment of the British National Health Service after World War II, the reformers claimed that they too had made health care a “right.” The same claim was made in Canada after that country established its “single-payer” Medicare scheme.

Yet in reality, neither country has made health care a right. They didn’t even come close. Neither British nor Canadian citizens have a right to any particular health care. A patient with a mysterious lump on her breast has no right to an MRI scan in either country. A cancer patient has no right to the latest cancer drug. A cardiac patient has no right to open heart surgery. They may get the care they need. Or they may not. Sadly, all too often they do not.

The British and the Canadians not only have no legally enforceable right to any particular type of care, they don’t even have a right to a place in line. For example, a patient who is 100th on the waiting list for heart surgery is not entitled to the 100th surgery. Other patients (including cash paying patients from the United States!) may jump the queue and get their surgery first.

Imagine a preacher, a priest or a rabbi who gets up in front of the congregation and gets a lot of things wrong. Say he misstates facts, distorts reality, or says other things you know are not true. Do you jump up from the pew and yell, “That’s a lie”? Of course not. But if those same misstatements were made by someone else during the work week you might well respond with considerable harshness. What’s the difference? I think there are two different thought processes that many people engage in. Let’s call them “Sunday morning” thinking and “Monday morning” thinking. We tolerate things on Sunday that we would never tolerate on Monday. And there is probably nothing wrong with that, unless people get their days mixed up.

In my professional career I have been to hundreds of health policy conferences, discussions, get-togethers, etc., where it seemed as though people were completely failing to connect with each other. One day it dawned on me that we were having two different conversations. Some people were engaged in Monday morning thinking, while everyone else was engaged in Sunday morning thinking.

Here’s the problem. Whether the beliefs are true or false, if people didn’t come to their religious convictions by means of reason, then reason isn’t going to convince them to change their minds.

This same principle applies to collectivism and health care. If people didn’t come to the false religion of collectivism by means of reason, you are not going to talk them out of it by means of reason. If you remember this principle, you will save yourself the agony of many, many pointless conversations.

ObamaCare Is A Flop With Small Businesses – Latest Headlines – Investors.com

ObamaCare Is A Flop With Small Businesses – Latest Headlines – Investors.com.

Health Reform: To the long and growing list of failed ObamaCare promises, you can now add this one: The tax credit that was supposed to cut insurance costs for millions of small businesses has proved to be a complete bust.

Shortly after President Obama signed his signature health reform law, he boasted that it would help the economy, pointing specifically to the small-business tax credit. Under the law, businesses that employ fewer than 25 full-time workers can get a credit of up to 35% of the premiums, climbing to 50% in 2014.

“This health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it’s pro-business, and it starts this year,” Obama said. The administration has since repeated this refrain many times.

Deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle claimed that the tax credit is “one of the largest tax cuts for health care in history.” Small Business Administration head Karen Mills said it “will provide about $40 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years,” adding that it is “one of the most significant aspects of health care reform for small businesses.”

And to make sure everyone knew about this great new benefit, the IRS sent postcards to roughly 4 million eligible businesses, did extensive press outreach, organized more than 1,000 events and created a new Web page.

Yet despite it all, a mere 228,000 small businesses — just 5% of those eligible — have signed up for the credit, according to a Treasury Department Inspector General report released this week.

Why were the administration’s forecasts so wildly off the mark?

According to the IG report, one big reason is that the rules were way too complicated for most small businesses, noting that many complained the credit “is not worth the time and effort to claim it.” Among other things, applicants have to wade through seven worksheets.

This is, by the way, precisely what the National Federation of Independent Business — a stalwart ObamaCare critic — said would happen. “Far fewer than 4 million are eligible for the credit as a practical matter and still fewer will be able to avail themselves of the full credit,” it said. “Others who are eligible will find the credit so small and complex that it is not worth the cost of calculation.”

If this were the only way ObamaCare failed to lived up to its promises, it would be bad enough. But this is just the latest in a string of troubling flops. Among them:

• The $2,500 cut in insurance costs Obama promised his reforms would produce has instead turned into a premium hike of $2,400 since he took office.

• ObamaCare was supposed to provide affordable access to hundreds of thousands denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. But instead, the “high risk” pools have attracted a meager 30,000.

• The initial insurance market reforms, which raised annual payment caps, unexpectedly threatened to push more than 3.4 million into the ranks of the uninsured, forcing the administration to quickly issue more than 1,500 waivers.

• Obama was also forced to abandon the long-term care insurance part of the reform after realizing it was hopelessly flawed.

• And the advertised price tag has already been busted, with the Congressional Budget Office upping the cost by more than 10% to cover unanticipated administrative costs.

Remember: These are all the quick and easy reforms contained in ObamaCare. Given that none of them has worked as promised, imagine the nightmares ahead when ObamaCare’s massive changes kick in after 2013.

We can only hope that a Republican president kills the entire misbegotten law before then, so we’ll never have to find out.