Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

July 23, 2013

Obamacare’s serious weaknesses driving even strong supporters away

— — Although Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., only recently acknowledged that the health care reform bill he helped create — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare — is a “train wreck,” most Americans suspected that at its creation.

Things are so bad that President Obama, trying to prevent some of the disastrous results, did something he is not allowed by the U.S. Constitution to do: postpone implementation of part of the law by suspending the employer mandate until 2015 and leaving the rest of the law intact. The executive branch of our government is obligated to enforce the laws — all of them, and all of each of them — and does not have the power to choose which ones, or parts thereof, it will enforce.

The House of Representatives passed two measures delaying the employer and individual mandates for one year, with 35 and 22 Democrats respectively joining in those efforts, which Mr. Obama has curiously threatened to veto.

And more recently, one of Obamacare’s most devoted groups of supporters has jumped ship. In a letter to Democrat Congressional leaders, Teamsters union president James Hoffa, and the presidents of two other unions, said this: “Right now, unless you and the Obama administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

The law has already encouraged some employers to trim their staffs to fewer than 50 full-time employees to avoid the expense of the mandate, and in other cases to decide against providing insurance altogether, and pay a much cheaper fine.

Nevertheless, Obama declared last week that “the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle-class Americans,” and criticized House Republicans for trying to dismantle it.

Polling data from five different polling organizations from mid-May through July 13 shows continuing disfavor among Americans, with the disparity of opposition-to-support running from as little as 5 points to as much as 15 points, and the Real Clear Politics average of the five polls at 10.2 points.

According to the Gallup poll from late last month, 42 percent say that in the long run the law will make their family’s health care situation worse, and only 22 percent say it will make it better. And 47 percent believe the law will make the health care situation in the U.S. worse, while only 34 percent say it will make it better.

Republicans also are criticized for offering no alternatives while trying to dismantle the measure. “Three years after campaigning on a vow to ‘repeal and replace’ President Barack Obama’s health care law, House Republicans have yet to advance an alternative for the system they have voted more than three dozen times to abolish in whole or in part,” Sunday’s editorial in The Washington Post complained. That ignores, however, HR 3400 — Empowering Patients First Act, introduced in 2009 before Republicans campaigned for and won control of the House.

And now there is another, HR 2300 — the Empowering Patients First Act of 2013. Its principal sponsor is Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who sponsored HR 3400, and he has credentials for health care issues matched by few in the Congress. Rep. Price is also Dr. Price, a physician who actually delivered and understands patient care.

This measure allows patients, families and doctors to make medical decisions, not Washington, D.C. That is an excellent place to begin improving health care. What a shame that wasn’t the driving factor behind the ACA.

“You can get folks covered, you can solve the insurance challenges, and you can save hundreds of billions of dollars in this health care system,” said the physician/congressman, “all without putting Washington or health insurance companies in charge of those decisions that ought to be between patients, and families and doctors.”

How can HR 2300 — a bill of only 249 pages, less than a tenth the length of the monstrous Obamacare bill — accomplish this?

Rep. Price describes it as comprehensive legislation under which “every single American has the financial feasibility to purchase the coverage they want, either through tax deductions, or credits, or advanceable credits or refundable advanceable credits so that they can purchase the coverage they want for themselves or their families, not what the government forces them to buy.”

He says further that everyone owns their own coverage, like a 401k plan, so if they change their job or lose their job, they take their coverage with them, and it allows all of those with pre-existing conditions to pool together, giving them the purchasing power of millions so that no one person’s adverse health status will change the cost for anyone else, including that one person.

While HR 2300 has the great advantage of being properly focused on patients and physicians, trying to straighten out the voluminous failures of the ACA in one bill is a Herculean feat. Obamacare needs to be repealed in total, and as soon as possible, and then Congress must undertake a sensible approach to correcting the problems of the health care system without turning it over to the government.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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