How to Tame the ObamaCare Leviathan

Opinion polls over the last several weeks show President Obama not only has failed to build public support for his health care overhaul. He is actually losing ground. The percentage of likely voters who want ObamaCare repealed now ranges from a low of 56% to a high of 60%.

If opponents can corral the lowest number in that range, they have a good chance of scuttling this unpopular multitrillion-dollar law before it can wreak havoc with America’s health care system and, indeed, its overall economy.

GOP candidates appear on course to take control of the House with an outside chance of winning the Senate. Even if they fall short of reclaiming the upper chamber, they should be able to form an alliance with moderate Democrats to derail many of ObamaCare’s most egregious mandates.

To do this, they must realize that voters are worried not just about their jobs and retirement plans, but also whether the quality of their personal health will allow them to enjoy the golden years of leisure after a lifetime of work. To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s not just the economy, stupid; it’s the overall quality of our lives.”

There is ample evidence to show that ObamaCare will cost jobs, raise health care costs and saddle future generations with crippling debt.

Taming health costs was a key goal of health reform. But earlier this month, major health insurers — including Aetna, a number of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, and Celtic Insurance Company — announced they would be forced to raise premiums for many of their customers in the coming weeks as a direct result of new requirements in the health overhaul law. More price hikes are expected to follow. The American people want action.

While total repeal of ObamaCare will be difficult, opponents can defang and begin to dismantle its worst provisions by pursuing these five key strategies:

Starving the beast. The new Congress can refuse to provide funds to hire some 16,000 new IRS agents needed to enforce all the new taxes, penalties and fees spawned by ObamaCare.

Scuttling the worst of health care reform. A new Congress should single out provisions opposed by sizable contingents of Democrats in the health reform debate.

A prime example is a new federal program to fund long-term care — the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, dubbed CLASS — as it’s commonly known — “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.”

They can also block the mandate that Americans must purchase government-approved health insurance or face penalties. And they can eliminate the hugely unpopular mandate that all businesses must file 1099 forms to report any purchases totaling more than $600 a year.

The National Federation of Independent Business says that gargantuan paperwork burden would harm some 40 million small businesses — the sector that perennially leads the country in job creation.

Preventing cuts to popular programs. Congress should block cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that more than 10 million seniors have chosen to get their health coverage. Such private plans are popular and more should be encouraged, not crushed.

Sidetracking provisions obviously aimed at imposing a government-controlled single payer chokehold on America’s health care sector. For instance, proposed rules that dictate how much private insurers must spend on direct medical benefits are arbitrary and already are causing havoc with health insurance.

And employers who provide health insurance to their workers are shocked at the constricted hoops they must jump through to protect their current health plans from federal regulations. They are so onerous that many are considering scuttling their employee health coverage altogether.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, calculates that cost of company subsidies for private insurance could triple to $1.4 trillion, creating strong incentives for businesses to dump their employees into federally subsidized insurance. This will expose taxpayers to even higher costs for ObamaCare.

Stay relentlessly on message. The major concerns of hardworking Americans are jobs, the spiraling deficit and an expansion of government control over health care.

Although President Obama deserves castigation for his clumsy handling of energy, environmental and foreign policy issues, candidates should stay focused on what matters most to voters. The president’s critics on the left — and the center — will do more than enough to keep other issues front and foremost as voters head to the polls.

Reasonably redeemable pledges to tame the leviathan that is ObamaCare can play a major role in helping Americans to see the path to taking back control over their health care and the economy.

Published on Investor’s Business Daily, September 21, 2010.

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