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An Obamacare Plan B

4:15 PM, Jun 21, 2012 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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In the event the Supreme Court does not put Obamacare out of our misery next week, Mitt Romney ought be ready to roll with the punches and come out at once with Plan B. Plan A was to have the Court sever it neatly with one swing of the axe, but there was always the possibility the Court would not follow the returns of the recent elections. Plan B should be the political process, which involves not the minds of nine, but the intent of millions, expressed in the usual ways. Thus, Plan B should be to elect politicians who will undo Obamacare with the tools given their branches of government. And so, Romney ought to say this: 

Mitt Romney

MY FELLOW AMERICANS: It is now up to us. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—which protects no one, and which will bankrupt the country—is not unconstitutional, but that does not mean it is good. A number of things that are legal are in many ways bad: It is legal to lie (except under oath), or to stay home all day watching TV in your skivvies; but it’s best not to do so, and we’d rather you’d not. 

And legal or not, this health care act is a disaster—born in deceit, passed in arrogance in the face of the will and the rage of the people, it has caused dissent and contention since its inception, and this has hardly worn off over time. People have not learned to love it: Their anger has deepened. Resistance hasn’t diminished: It has grown. The problem is not that it expands coverage; that intention is laudable. The problem is that it is a 2,700 page blunderbuss that tries to assert central control over 16 percent of a $14 trillion economy, over the choices and actions of nearly six million health care professionals, and over the health care decisions and choices of the more than 300 million American citizens with whom they all interact. This country is drowning in debt, (along with everyone else in the first-world community), and this bill will cost much, much more than was claimed when they passed it, and that, let us remember, was quite bad enough. 

When it was passed in March, 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected its cost at $940 billion for the ten years to follow (2010-2019). That was the estimate that members of Congress heard when they voted for the bill. But the legislation was always designed to put the highest costs in more distant years: Its coverage provisions are estimated to cost $66 billion in 2014 but will rise to $265 billion by 2022. And so CBO’s latest ten-year projection has grown to $1.76 trillion (for 2012-2022), which is simply debilitating for the federal budget. Large parts of this law have been proven unworkable, waivers have been showered on hundreds of cronies; businessmen, doctors, patients, and governors have all pleaded for relief from its mercies. It is already inflicting dire harm:

It is having a catastrophic effect on the practice of medicine, with hospitals closing, health care more expensive, fewer companies selling insurance, fewer choices among the options remaining, and those more expensive, and more and more doctors and health care professionals either quitting the business, or planning to. In just a few instances since the bill passed, a firm based in Iowa stopped selling health care insurance, stranding about 840,000 former consumers; construction was stopped on 45 new physician-owned hospitals; and the research group the Galen Institute cited more than a dozen instances in which companies either stopped selling health care insurance or went out of business in no less than in 20 states. As options are narrowing, prices have soared, owing to (a) the bill’s insistence that all people be covered, regardless of pre-existing conditions; and (b) its simultaneous insistence that all policies be comprehensive (i.e., expensive), covering contingencies that most people don’t want and don’t need.

As a result, as Karl Rove tells us, “MIT professor Jonathan Gruber .  .  . hired to consult on the creation of the state insurance exchanges .  .  . has advised at least three states that health coverage premiums in the individual market would increase 19% to 30%” and the CBO has reported that by 2014, the millions who purchase their own insurance will pay at least $2,100 a year more than they do at present, and “If you own or work for a small business .  .  . you can expect the coverage to cost $19,200 a year for a family by 2016 .  .  . and you must buy a policy or face federal fines.”

Among those hardest hit are young people and families, who may not earn much and need no more than bare-bones and high-deductible policies, and people on Medicare, whose payments will be cut so dramatically that many hospitals will be unable to take them, and some doctors will refuse to see them at all. Along with Medicare patients, and the budgets of millions of middle-class families, this act also lays waste to research and development, father of all the innovations that save and improve our lives.

“To pay for the bill, Congress would levy a $2 billion annual tax on the medical device industry, which ardently opposes the legislation,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger. Add to all this paperwork, new regulations, and the prospect of rationing, and it is not surprising that many doctors may be near suicidal, or, if not this, at least somewhat depressed. A study released in January 2011, found that 78 percent of the 2,958 physicians queried said that “the impact of the law would be negative,” that they were “anxious about the future .  .  . concerned for their practices and their patients,” and that “sixty-five percent said that they expect the quality of health care in America to deteriorate over the next five years.”

And bad as this is, it is just the beginning of what this ill-conceived act has in store. In its effect, it might have been called the Anti-Job Growth, Stagnation Inducing, Recession Extending Act of 2010, for it now sits like a stone on the chest of the country, preventing it not only from moving, but from getting up off its back. “Job creation came to a screeching halt at the time Obama Care was enacted,” Grace Marie Turner informs us. “The low point of the recession came in January 2009, when U.S. employers shed 841,000 jobs,” but the economy began to recover, the high point coming in the April 2010 report, when 229,000 jobs were added. Then the Democrats passed their dream legislation, and the national nightmare began. “In the following months, the economy added an average of just 6,500 jobs per month (net of layoffs)—less than a tenth the pre-Obamacare average .  .  . good reason to believe that the health law is a major contributor to the hiring halt.”

How did this happen? First, the uncertainty of being able to figure how much a new hire will cost, because of the new regulations, and the fact that the coverage has to meet federal standards, which are certain to be more substantial. Turner quotes Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, saying, “We’ve frequently heard strong comments to the effect of, ‘My company won’t hire a single additional worker until we know what health insurance costs are going to be.’ ” Second, the fact that most of these regulations apply to companies which employ 50 or more employees is a powerful incentive to owners to keep companies small, to not expand, and to replace workers where possible with automation. These are the jobs often filled by the poor, by the unskilled, and by young people seeking experience, precisely the people who need to be hired, and for whom liberal hearts bleed so dramatically. “The administration is making it harder than ever for unskilled workers to get started,” Diana Furchgott-Roth has informed us. “Low wage and part-time jobs will start to go, not in 2014, but now.” If we want help them get started, and help the country revive, we will kill this bill before 2014 arrives: January 20, 2013, when a new administration takes over, is the time to do what the Court didn’t do.

And if bad medicine and unemployment don’t really get to you, how about a new and ramped up culture war? As in the case of un-and-underemployment, this is another consequence that was not broadcast when the act was passed, the fruit of liberals’ impulse to meddle in everything; this time their mandate that religious employers include coverage for contraception and/or abortion in all of the health plans on offer in their institutions and schools. Pitting the feminists, the most loyal and fervent interest groups of the Democrats, against their sworn enemies, religious conservatives, this mandate has the effect of conflating the right to buy something from someone with the right to buy it from any and everyone; akin to telling a kosher deli that it has to sell pork rinds, though pork rinds are for sale at neighboring markets, only a short walk away. 

As a result, on May 21, 43 Catholic groups filed 12 lawsuits in federal court protesting the mandate as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, as well as the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment. Left to itself, the free market would dispose by itself of these problems; when A does not wish to supply a service or good which B wants to purchase C steps in to provide it; leaving B with his product, C with his profit, and A with clean hands. This is the way a sane system disposes of conflicts, avoids coercion and lawsuits, and allows true diversity to flourish. This is a way that Obamacare’s mandates foreclose, and thereby bring, along with stagnation, endless and fierce civil strife.

If fewer doctors, more costs, fewer new cures, and less care are the stuff of your fancies; if high unemployment is also your passion, and if a good culture war gets your blood racing; vote for our president, and you will see much more of them. If you don’t, now, it seems you have only one option: you can vote to replace him with me.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and a columnist for the Washington Examiner.

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