Health Care Law Proving to Be Bad Medicine

Feb 8, 2011

Buoyed by two major court decisions ruling part or all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional, Senate Republicans last week took an unsuccessful run at repealing the new health care law. Although the House passed repeal legislation on January 19, it was always considered unlikely that the Senate would successfully follow suit. Even if it had, President Obama surely would have vetoed the bill. But none of this changes the fact that the law is impractical, unworkable, and a major step backward.

We find more evidence of this as each day passes. Supporters of the bill promised that it would lower costs and allow individuals who like their existing coverage to keep it. Instead, costs are rising, and health plans are being forced to change. Officials—including the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—have already raised the cost estimates of the bill and have acknowledged that the savings earmarked for Medicare will never materialize.

In some states, Medicare Advantage participants are being told that their plans will no longer be available. Workers who have been banking on employer-based coverage when they retire are being told not to count on it. And as premiums rise, owing in part to the new mandates, many companies are thinking about ending their employer-based plans and moving workers into government-run exchanges.

Speaking of mandates, the health care law is unleashing a new wave of costly and confusing regulations. In addition to creating 159 new agencies, commissions, panels, and other bodies, it grants extraordinary powers to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to redefine health care as we know it. At the time of this writing, HHS has granted more than 700 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable.

The Chamber opposed this law and favors its repeal. But I learned some time ago that you can’t beat something with nothing. That’s why the Chamber has long advocated for commonsense solutions that will reduce costs, improve care, and expand access to coverage. We’ve been strong proponents of health care IT, medical liability reform, and better pooling options for small businesses. We can adopt many other reasonable reforms that will strengthen consumer choice, increase competition, and make health care more affordable.

The president has always invited his opponents to offer him their best ideas—we think these are very good ones that would attract substantial bipartisan support. The ball is now in his court.

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