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Crosstalk: Obamacare,‘tweak’ or repeal?



by RaeLynn Ricarte

When you pass a new law with sweeping consequences totally on a party-line vote (not one Republican voted for Obamacare and their proposed amendments were not considered) you have to own the consequences.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats who controlled the House and Senate in 2009 are now on the hook for the disaster that is ironically named the Affordable Care Act.

Stands to reason this massive overhaul of the health care system is now on life support. The ACA was voted on only hours after being unveiled so was never vetted.

Democrats justified their actions by saying the U.S. had too many uninsured people, with estimates ranging from 30 million to 45 million (the methodology used to calculate these numbers is disputed).

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now report that Obamacare hasn’t made much of a dent in the uninsured rate, which has dropped by only 12.6 million.

Even the number of uninsured getting coverage is debatable. The original Congressional Budget Office estimate was based on a 2010 benchmark, when the level of uninsured was higher than normal due to the impact of the Great Recession. Using 2008 as the benchmark, the number of uninsured has dropped by only 6.7 million.

The CBO projects that by 2023 — more than a decade after implementation — 31 million people will still be uninsured.

Remember when Obama said lifting the cost burdens of healthcare would start a job-surge that would boost the economy?

And that people could keep their existing plans and see their premiums decrease by up to $2,500 a year?

The reality is that health care costs rose by an average of 5 percent in 2014, well above the rate of inflation, and program costs are driving people out of plans.

It turns out that folks signing up for ACA exchanges are older, sicker and more expensive to cover than many insurers estimated.

Some carriers have announced they will be increasing rates by 30 to more than 50 percent in 2016.

The CBO reports that rising costs are expected to kill millions of jobs, which will leave even more people without coverage and adversely affect economic growth.

Only Democrats would spin last week’s CBO report about the workforce shrinking by 2 million people as a good thing. Few people paying bills are going to “choose” to work part-time.

Over half of Obamacare’s health insurance co-ops have collapsed under the new system and the providers who took their clients may end up stuck with millions in unpaid bills, which is expected to hike premiums even more.

The GOP-controlled Senate and House are moving to replace Obamacare with something more realistic and workable. House Speaker Paul Ryan, an economist known for his budget straight talk, will unveil a replacement proposal in the spring.

Let’s hope his fix is given true consideration and Democrats are willing to admit it’s time to pull the plug on Obamacare as it now exists.

by Mark Gibson

Obamacare is once again making headlines: The Senate Thursday approved on a largely party line vote a budget bill that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, two top priorities of Republicans who control the chamber.

In doing so, GOP congressional leaders will fulfill a longtime pledge to voters and rank-and-file members to get a repeal of the law to President Barack Obama's desk.

The president will, of course, veto the bill.

Point made? These ongoing but futile attempts to repeal or undermine Obamacare are, apparently, enough to convince the Republican base that their federal leaders are tough, uncompromising leaders out to change the world: Elect a Republican president and Obamacare is gone.

Like incompatible co-workers, Republicans and Democrats are each eager to see the other fail. These conflicts make for bad business, and bad governance as well.

Like any complex law based on theory and expectation, Obamacare is almost certainly in need of “tweaking.” There are policies that work as intended, and policies that do not.

In the past, these changes would have been made as a matter of course, those in support of the program — and those opposed — working together to the best program possible for the American people.

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and most recently No Child Left Behind are examples of federal programs that have been adjusted and changed and even scrapped over the years.

By all accounts, Obamacare is — and isn't — working.

Choosing sides — Democrat or Republican — is one way of making a decision about the Affordable Care Act. It's easy.

Sifting through the spin is not so easy.

For example, prior to Thursday's vote the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the total workforce in the U.S. will shrink by just under one percent as a result of changes in worker participation because of new coverage expansions, mandates and changes in tax rates of Obamacare.

The Republican spin is that Obamacare is costing jobs, but I disagree.

“Some people would choose to work fewer hours; others would leave the labor force entirely or remain unemployed for longer than they otherwise would,” the agency said in its latest analysis of the now five-year-old law.

The CBO is not predicting that employers will fire millions of workers or reduce hours because of the law, but rather that the law changes incentives over the years for the workers themselves both in part-time and full-time positions.

That could mean that older Americans who wish to retire but have remained in the workforce solely for employer health benefits would opt to leave their jobs.

It seems likely that this voluntary form of “early retirement” would benefit American businesses by reducing wages at the high end, which would give younger workers the opportunity to move into the workforce.

It could be a win-win situation, while sending up yet another useless repeal of the law is not.

Whether or not it’s good politics — for either side — is yet to be seen.



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