Friday, March 07, 2014

Guest column: If Obamacare is so great ...

By Congressman Joe Pitts
Guest columnist

This week at a town hall meeting, the President again reiterated that he is "very proud" of Obamacare. He and his administration have some very odd ways of showing that pride.

If Obamacare is so great, then why does the administration keep delaying its implementation in various ways? More than 30 times the administration has announced various delays to pieces of the law, some of them quite essential to its administration.

Just this week, the President announced a two-year delay in the elimination of certain insurance plans that don’t meet the requirements of Obamacare. According to the law, these plans are now illegal. Insurers aren't supposed to be able to sell plans that don't meet the essential minimum benefits requirement.

The problem is that the President was less than clear about what Obamacare would do to the insurance market. He told everyone that if they liked their plan, they would be able to keep it. Meanwhile, anyone who actually read the law could see that this wasn’t the case.

When cancellation notices went out across the nation last year, the deception became clear and the outcry led the President to proclaim that these plans could keep running for another year. This would have meant that people with these plans would have again received cancellation notices, and right before the November mid-term election. At-risk Senate Democrats have been quietly pushing the President to extend the exemption and they got their wish this week.

Just a few weeks ago, the administration announced further delays to the employer mandate to purchase insurance for employees. They created a new category of businesses with between 50 and 99 employees. These businesses won’t have to comply until 2016. There's no legal authority for further delay and no authority to create another category of employers. This just adds to the legal chaos that is making it hard for employers to grow their business and expand hiring.

If the law is so great, then why does the definition of success keep having to change? Before the health insurance exchanges opened, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius was asked what success would look like. She said, "Well, I think success looks like at least seven million people having signed up by the end of March 2014."

After the disastrous rollout of the website, it became apparent that that goal would not be met. Just recently she changed her tune: "First of all, seven million was not the  administration. That was a CBO, Congressional Budget Office, prediction when the bill was first signed. I'm not sure where they even got their numbers."

If she wasn't sure how CBO arrived at that number, how was it ever considered the standard for success?

If Obamacare is so great, then why is approval of the law at an all-time low in many polls? Many Americans have been shocked by expensive new coverage, or know someone who had problems purchasing coverage through the exchanges.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently claimed that every Obamacare horror story was untrue. The New York Times, Washington Post, and every major news network have all featured stories of people who have had difficulty purchasing care or affording it. Apparently, Reid is skeptical of every single one of those reports.

I oppose Obamacare, but I recognize that the law created winners and losers. Some people are getting a better deal on health insurance, but that is because the law raises costs on tens of millions of Americans to pay for new subsidies. I think heath reform should have had benefits for every American, not just a few.

I understand that the President and supporters of the law are heavily invested in its success. But if the law was so great, then why is the implementation of it such a mess? In fact, this week the Government Accountability Office announced that it would investigate how more than $304 million dollars was wasted on Cover Oregon, the state-based health insurance exchange that doesn’t work. Not a single person was able to enroll through the website created by the program.

No one should be proud of the rolling disaster of Obamacare implementation. We can do better, but we have to start with getting rid of a bad law.

US Rep. Joe Pitts is a Republican who represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District in parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster counties.

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