To the editor:
Becky Arnold of the Alexandria Democratic Committee wrote in support of the early provisions of the new health overhaul law in her letter, “Reform, don’t repeal, the health care act” (February 17, 2011). While virtually all of us agree that health reform is needed to get costs down and expand coverage to millions of uninsured — especially those with pre-existing conditions — she overlooks the huge and damaging impact to come with the current legislation.
The health law imposes more than $500 billion in new taxes on a fragile economy and takes $575 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years. Almost everyone will be required to have federally-designed health insurance, and most employers will be required to provide insurance or face fines. A vast network of new bureaucracies will be created to put the federal government in control of the health insurance market and to develop and enforce thousands of pages of new federal rules. Two massive new entitlement programs will be created, and total federal spending will top $2.3 trillion over the first 10 years of full implementation.
And the law will not reduce the cost of health insurance. For people buying their own coverage, the cost for a family policy will be $2,100 higher as a result of the law, according to the Congressional Budget Office, not $2,500 lower, as President Obama promised. That misses the mark by $4,600!
Last fall, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanded that health insurers immediately offer insurance for children to any parent who applies. Certainly we want children to be able to get coverage, but this heavy-handed mandate means parents could wait until their children were sick to apply. Companies in 20 states have stopped selling these policies entirely, making it almost impossible for parents to buy child-only policies.
And Ms. Arnold writes that the law will decrease the federal budget deficit. But that number was reached through gimmicks, double counting of Medicare savings and counting 10 years of new taxes but only six years of spending. The former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, estimates that the law, when given an honest accounting, will add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.
The president has focused on the early provisions of the health overhaul law, but there is much, much more to come. The only reasonable and responsible action is to repeal the law and start over with sensible, affordable reform that actually achieves the goals of more affordable care in a patient-centered health sector.
Published in the Alexandria Times, March 3, 2011.