By Stephen Edwards
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has become, for many Americans, a tired issue. The law has been a flashpoint for national debate since the election of Barack Obama in 2008. No matter how tired we are of hearing about the law, it is important to remember what we were promised when it was passed in March of 2010. To secure the law’s passage, President Obama and his allies in Congress made many claims about what the law would do, and it is clear now that the law is a failure given what they promised. I would like to remind readers of three central claims the Obama administration made regarding to the law and to show how the law fails to deliver on all of these claims.
The most obvious and talked about broken promise of Obamacare has been the president’s unequivocal guarantee that, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” The saying became something of a battle cry for Obamacare supporters during the debates over whether the law would be passed, repeated again and again in order to assure the American people of the stability of Democrats’ new health care regime. This statement, as numerous fact-checking outlets now attest, turned out to be false. Health insurance companies burdened by the law’s host of new regulations have announced that, as of December 2013, 5.4 million Americans have had their plans canceled as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Those same insurers estimate that 5 to 8 million more people will have their plans canceled as more of the law’s regulations unfold in the coming months.
This outcome was really quite predictable if one thinks about the specific provisions of the law. Obamacare lays out a new blanket standard for what it calls “minimum essential coverage” in a health care plan. Many of the coverage areas now deemed “essential” were already included in just about every plan, such as outpatient care, emergency room services, and hospitalization. Many other items, however, have been added to the “minimum essential coverage” category, such as maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, as well as a host of preventive care options. So, anyone who, prior to the passage of Obamacare, had a plan that did not include the services now deemed “essential” would necessarily have to change his/her coverage. It is naïve to think that the Obama administration was not aware of this when it made its promise about everyone being able to keep their current plans. It is much more likely that the Democrats and Obama deliberately perpetuated this misinformation to get the law passed.
In a televised address to congress in 2009, President Obama claimed that the new healthcare law would reduce the federal budget deficit. If observers were not already convinced of the absurdity of claiming that the rollout of new government bureaus and regulations would somehow save the government money, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has since made things clearer. According to a May 2013 report published by the CBO, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act poses a cost of $2.4 trillion over the next ten years. The law provides for $1.18 trillion in new revenue from new or increased taxes on health care and insurance. Do the math, and the law will add $1.16 trillion to the deficit over a ten year period.
Finally, President Obama has claimed that a major goal of the new healthcare law is to provide insurance to those Americans who are currently uninsured. It is true that, under the new law, a portion of the 57 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance would receive some form of coverage. But it is important to note how estimates as to exactly how many of these people will find coverage have become less and less optimistic. In 2010, the CBO estimated that 32 million Americans would receive insurance under Obamacare. That number has shrunk to 25 million in the most recent estimates. Democrats are scaling back their promises in the face of a failed law.
As the debates over Obamacare continue, those who oppose it should remind policymakers and voters alike that the law has failed precisely on its own terms. Democrats’ only hope in avoiding repeal is apathy over a public issue that has become boring for many Americans. They are counting on you to sit back and close your eyes — don’t do it.