The bad news just keeps getting worse for ObamaCare, creating election-year headaches for the White House. Here are a dozen new damaging disclosures:
1.The Obama administration got slapped by the Government Accountability Office for using an $8.3 billion slush fund to temporarily cushion the blow from cuts that ObamaCare requires to a program called Medicare Advantage. Millions of seniors could be at risk of losing “the coverage they have now” if these spending cuts take place.
Medicare Advantage is popular with seniors because it allows them to enroll in private health plans that generally provide better benefits, better-coordinated care, and better access to physicians. Nearly 14 million are enrolled this year.
But coverage for millions would be threatened, causing a huge political problem. The Obama Administration is using the slush fund to temporarily shore up the program, at least until after the election.
In a rare slap-down, the GAO said the extra payments to Medicare Advantage plans should be stopped because the money is not going for its intended purpose – to reward only high-quality plans.
2. IRS Agents: The Obama administration is diverting roughly $500 million to hire additional IRS agents and other employees to help implement the health overhaul law. This is expressly against the will of the House leadership that has tried to cut off funding to implement the law until the Supreme Court reaches its decision.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan calculates the administration plans to eventually hire an additional 16,500 IRS employees, many charged with tracking and enforcing citizen compliance with ObamaCare.
3.Public support collapses: While the Supreme Court prepares to issue its historic decision on the constitutionality of the law, public support for ObamaCare has fallen to its lowest level yet. A Washington Post/ABC news poll taken just after the court arguments shows that only 39 percent of the American people still support the law.
Two thirds either want the entire law or at least the individual mandate thrown out. Only 25 percent think the law should be upheld in full. A Gallup poll found 72% of Americans believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
4. Hospitals hit: By a nearly five-to-one margin, hospital executives expect that the health law will hurt their bottom line. According to a survey, 55 percent expect revenues to fall as a result of ObamaCare and only 12 percent expect increases. The hospitals were strong backers of the law until they saw the reality behind the flowery promises.
Second thoughts anyone?
5. Holder slapped: Attorney General Eric Holder was forced by a Circuit Court judge to acknowledge that the judicial branch indisputably has the power to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress. This was in response to the president’s widely-derided comment and not-so-veiled warning that the Supreme Court “not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” False on all counts.
6. Bishops stand firm: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is determined to fight the administration’s mandate that Catholic hospitals, universities, and other organizations provide their employees access to contraception, abortion drugs, and sterilization, in violation of their strongly-held religious beliefs.
Archbishop-designate William Lori of Baltimore, on behalf of the Bishop’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, wrote that religious liberty “is our American heritage, our most cherished freedom.” He said that what “we ask is nothing more than that our God-given right to religious liberty be respected. We ask nothing less than that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which recognize that right, be respected.”
Cardinal Roger Mahony, who most recently served as archbishop of Los Angeles, said: “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic community can muster.”
It’s a very bad idea to get into a fight with the Catholic Church over its clearly constitutionally-protected right to religious freedom.
7. Employers dropping coverage: The Congressional Budget Office says up to 20 million people could lose their job-based health insurance once ObamaCare is implemented.
And the House Energy and Commerce Committee just issued a new report based upon internal information from business leaders advising the president. It shows that business leaders believe the health law “will increase costs, make future planning for hiring and expansions difficult due to the uncertainty created by the law, and could ultimately lead to employers dropping health insurance coverage for their employees.”
8. Young people hit hardest: Support among the young for the president is waning. According to a recent Harvard University survey, only half of 18 – 24 year olds support the president, and only one in five young people think the country is heading in the right direction.
This could be because many of them are beginning to see the impact of the administration’s policies on their lives and their future: They will be forced to pay disproportionately more for mandated ObamaCare health insurance, they will be saddled with trillions of dollars in new ObamaCare debt, and their job prospects are weak, at least partly because of the ObamaCare employer mandate that is stifling job creation.
9. Student loan confusion: The source of the latest alarms about soaring student loan rates is actually the result of an obscure provision in ObamaCare.
The law ended the ability of private firms to participate in the student loan program and used $8.7 billion of “savings” generated by the government takeover of the program to help fund ObamaCare’s new entitlements. The Department of Education has been transferring large batches of federal student loans to new loan-servicing companies, many of which are ill-equipped to handle the transfer.
It’s rich for the president to be traveling the country demanding “change” to a problem of his own creation as student loans are being yanked from private companies and turned over to non-profit companies, as demanded by ObamaCare.
10. Double-counting Deception: The Holy Grail of ObamaCare was that it could offer massive new subsidies to provide health coverage to 30 million more people and at the same time reduce the federal budget deficit. Common sense says this is ridiculous, and budget expert Jim Capretta explains the deception. The latest Medicare trustees’ report shows that the trick involves a “deceptive shift in federal finances” that results in an $8.1 trillion double-count.
The scam is beyond anything even Bernie Madoff could have conceived.
Also, the chief actuary for Medicare issued a dissent to the Medicare Trustees’ report released this week, saying that the same money can’t be spent to extend the solvency of Medicare and also to pay for the new health insurance subsidies under ObamaCare.
11. Deep payment cuts to docs: Chief Medicare actuary Rick Foster says that current law – i.e., ObamaCare – will require physician fees to be cut by 31 percent on January 1, “an implausible expectation.” That will mean that Medicare would pay doctors “considerably below the current relative level of Medicaid prices,” Foster said, leading to “severe problems with beneficiary access to care.”
12. Dems bolt: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) led a parade of Democrats renouncing ObamaCare. “I think we paid a terrible price for health care,” Frank said. ObamaCare cost the president “a lot of credibility as a leader” said Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). Passing ObamaCare “wasn’t worth” the political cost, said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY).
“The climate out there was really ugly because of it,” said Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). ObamaCare will be “an Albatross” for Democrats in 2012, said former Rep. Artur Davis, (D-AL). He said that ObamaCare “is the single least popular piece of major domestic legislation in the last 70 years.”
Imagine you are in the White House, six months before a general election, facing this kind of news on your signature domestic policy legislation. And the news is only going to get worse as the law gets closer to implementation.
If the Supreme Court doesn’t toss out the whole law, the voters surely will demand that Congress and a new president finish the job in January.
Posted on Forbes: Health Matters, April 27, 2012.