ObamaCare At Six: Usurping Congress To Try To Rescue A Broken Law

The White House is celebrating this week the sixth anniversary of enactment of the Affordable Care Act—celebrating but trying to avoid discussing its failure to achieve widely heralded goals.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell wants to “broaden the conversation” and talk instead about delivery system reform and bundled payments—issues certain to move people toward euphoric admiration of the law. (Even these seemingly innocuous bipartisan reforms are not without controversy, Heritage’s John O’Shea writes.)

This is quite a contrast from six years ago. Congress was preparing to take the final vote that would make Obamacare the law of the land, and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and dozens of other Democrats rhapsodized about the lofty goals they said it would achieve:

“The United States will finally join the rest of the civilized world in achieving universal coverage…

“Families will save thousands of dollars on premiums…

“No one will be denied care because they can’t afford to pay…

“Passage of this law will reduce the federal budget deficit…”

Many of us predicted what would happen—costs would increase, millions of people would lose their doctors and their coverage, tens of millions of people still would be without coverage, and millions with coverage still would find it difficult to afford their premiums and medical bills.

So instead of reminding people of its failures, the administration this year has decided to “look beyond the law’s central issues of access and affordability and explore the ‘next chapter’ of healthcare reform,” The Hill reports.

Based upon recent actions by the administration, this next chapter is going to delve into mind-boggling regulatory change and complexity through administrative actions.

Since the law passed, the administration has made at least 43 changes to the law, most without the benefit of legal authority. The administration’s changes represent most of the 70 changes we estimate have been made, so far.

The law would be even more unpopular than it already is without these changes, most of which were designed to soften the blow by delaying, altering, and even eliminating some of its most onerous provisions.

And Congress has made its own changes, mostly to protect Americans from its costs and overreach, such as eliminating the long term care insurance Ponzi scheme, protecting small businesses from burdensome 1099 reporting requirements, delaying some of its mandates and taxes, and blocking further waste of taxpayer dollars on the failing co-ops.

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About the author

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform. Full biography