The Truth Comes Out on Health Care
It seems like just yesterday Nancy Pelosi said that Congress would have to pass sweeping health care legislation so we could find out what was actually in the bill. Two years have passed since that bill became law, and though the full implications of its 159 new agencies, panels, commissions, regulatory bodies, and mandates remain murky, a few things are now crystal clear.
First, the law will cost more than originally advertised. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now estimates the bill will cost upward of $1.76 trillion over a decade, and not the $940 billion that was initially projected. Why? Due to a clever budget gimmick, the law was written not to take full effect until 2014, meaning budget estimates only accounted for six years of implementation. Now that the CBO has enough information to forecast costs for nine years of implementation, the price has gone way up. And some project that when you factor in all 10 years, the cost could be a whopping $2 trillion!
Second, though the costs will rise, the projected scope of coverage will actually fall. The CBO found that the law will reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 30 million, not 32 million as first promised. And remember that assurance that if you like your health care coverage you can keep it? Don’t bank on it. The CBO also projected that in 2016, four million Americans will lose their employer-based health insurance—a massive increase over the one million originally forecast.
Third, the law is clearly bad for America’s job creators and workers. A sweeping new national survey of more than 2,300 small and large businesses shows that employers’ health care costs have gone up under the law. As a result, many will be forced to pass on costs to their employees. Businesses will have less money to hire, invest, and expand.
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the law. While the Chamber is not weighing in on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, we believe the law’s fate should be settled as quickly as possible to restore certainty for business. And if the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the whole law should be struck down.
Unfortunately, our original predictions about the negative consequences of the law have proved true. The Chamber has long fought for health care reform based on market solutions that will empower consumers, foster competition, control costs, and improve quality and coverage. We still need those reforms, and we will continue to push for them until we get it right.
Thomas J. Donohue is the President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce