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The Senate's Doctors Speak Out Against Obamacare

8:30 AM, Oct 26, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Seven months after Obamacare's passage, the Senate's two doctors have conducted a “check-up” on the highly unpopular health care overhaul, the passage of which is about to cost the Democrats their nearly 80-seat advantage in the House and possibly even their 18-seat advantage in the Senate (where two more doctors, Rand Paul (R., Ky.), M.D., and John Boozman (R., Ark.), O.D., will likely be among the GOP newcomers). 

The Senate's Doctors Speak Out Against Obamacare

As doctors Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) show in their report, entitled “Grim Diagnosis,” Obamacare wouldn’t reform our health care system but would deform it — by injecting the federal government into the middle of the private relationship between doctor and patient.  Moreover, as Drs. Coburn and Barrasso write, Obamacare would increase “costs to patients, consumers, and taxpayers, while exacerbating many existing problems in health care.” 

Their “check-up” shows how Obamacare would undermine existing health plans, medical innovation, fiscal solvency, and jobs; while centralizing power, politicizing health care, and reducing Americans' liberty.  Here are a few highlights from the 26-page publication:

On Obamacare's effects on existing health plans, Drs. Coburn and Barrasso write,

In June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued rules limiting changes employers can make to health insurance plans, and still be considered to be ‘grandfathered’ – or exempt from many of the new mandates in the law.  Under the Department’s own estimates, more than half of companies may have to give up their current health coverage because of the new law by 2013.  And, in their estimate, the Administration predicts that eight in 10 small businesses could lose their current health plans.

On medical innovation, they write that in June,

The Boston Globe reported that [Obamacare's] “2.3 percent excise tax on companies that supply medical devices like heart defibrillators and surgical tools to hospitals, health centers and ambulance services,” will force industry leaders to “lay off workers and curb the research and development of new medical tools.” 

On fiscal solvency, Coburn and Barrasso observe that, in August, the Obama administration issued a shamelessly politicized Medicare trustees’ report, which claimed that each of the hundreds of billions of dollars that Obamacare would siphon out of Medicare could simultaneously be spent (on Obamacare) and saved (so as to be spent later to extend the life of Medicare). 

Coburn and Barrasso write that, in response to this brazen claim, “The official Chief Actuary of Medicare warned that ‘the financial projections shown in [the trustees’] report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range...or the long range.’”  Thus, they note, the chief actuary issued a competing analysis “based on ‘more sustainable assumptions.’”  That analysis showed that a dollar, indeed, cannot be spent twice.

On jobs, Drs. Coburn and Barrasso write that, in August, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report projecting that such provisions such as the (in the CBO's words) “substantial expansion of Medicaid,” and its extremely high effective marginal tax rates would, as the CBO writes, “discourage work.”  Moreover, penalties on employers, the CBO says, “will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers.” 

Weighing the evidence, the CBO concludes, Obamacare “will affect some individuals’ decisions about whether and how much to work and employers’ decisions about hiring workers,” which, “on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy” by “roughly half a percent.”  Coburn and Barrasso write that the CBO's projections amount to over 788,000 employees — “a huge number of future jobs and future workers that will be effectively sidelined” by Obamacare.

On the politicization of health care, Coburn and Barrasso write, "Section 6001” — Can anything with more than 6,000 sections be good? — “of the health overhaul prohibits hospitals owned by physicians from expanding,” and it denies “Medicare reimbursements to any physician-owned hospitals not certified by Medicare by the end of the year.”  The Washington Times has written that, in response, “the Physician Hospitals of America (PHA) identified 39 projects under development whose owners had canceled [them] outright,” at the cost of “roughly 25,000 jobs.”  

Coburn and Barrasso add that these senseless restrictions, or bans, on doctor-owned hospitals, would raise costs and reduce the quality of care:  “As the Times article notes, ‘physician-owned facilities tend to be economically efficient and deliver superior medical outcomes.’”

Beyond all this, the Senate’s doctors add that Obamacare “could accelerate the trend of physicians leaving private practice to work in a centralized hospital setting;” would create “a permanent disincentive against business growth,” in part by “creating perverse incentives for small employers,” who would often be penalized for hiring additional employees; would cause young adults’ insurance premiums to “spike dramatically” due to new mandates banning insurers from charging actuarially accurate rates to each age group, thereby forcing younger adults to subsidize the insurance of older (generally wealthier) adults; would bend “the ‘cost-curve’ up;” and would “blow a hole in the federal budget.”

Not bad for two years’ work on the part of this administration and Congress.  Of course, one word would fix all of this:  Repeal.

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