The Right Prescription

The Nation Will Reexamine Obamacare

Looking ahead to November 2014.

By 3.21.13

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The weasels who wrote the Obama health law postponed the pain until after the 2012 presidential election. Popular provisions were put into effect immediately, such as allowing children to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26, offering “free” colonoscopies and mammograms (in truth, forcing you to pay for them in your premium, whether you get them or not), and giving women the thrill of getting contraceptives at the drugstore without paying anything. The White House also granted 1,472 waivers to certain companies and unions exempting them from insurance reforms so they would not drop coverage for employees and members before the presidential contest.

Voters saw through these hijinks. Even on election day 2012, a majority favored repealing the health law. But they cared more about other issues or didn’t care for Mitt Romney. The 2012 election was not a referendum on Obamacare.

November 2014 will be different. By then:

People in their twenties and thirties will be clobbered with 100% or higher premium hikes, insurers report. Nineteen percent of the president’s 2012 voters came from this age group.

Workers in retail, hospitality, and home care will lose on-the- job coverage and, in some cases, their full time status, forecasts the ADP Research Institute. The law mandates that employers with 50 or more full- time workers provide an “essential benefit package” that costs about twice what these industries currently offer. Employers will drop coverage. Even the government’s actuaries admit fewer people will get coverage at work after the employer mandate goes into effect than if the law had not passed.

Employers will be struggling to determine what “affordable” means, how to calculate “full time” workforce, and how to pay the $65 fee for each worker and worker’s dependents.

Seniors needing hospital care will be shocked at cutbacks. Section 3000A of the law awards bonus points to the hospitals that spend the least per senior. Hospitals are even whacked for what Medicare patients consume in the 30 days after discharge, including physical therapy.

Hospital patients of all ages will wait longer for a nurse. Cuts to Medicare pay for over half the law, and this will mean $247 billion less for hospitals over the next decade, forcing them to operate under scarcity.

Consumers directed to a state exchange will worry about handing their Social Security number and 15 pages of financial and family information to exchange “assisters,” temporary workers often from community organizations. Civil rights activists in California are resisting background checks for “assisters” because it would disqualify too many minority men with prior convictions.

In politics, twenty months is an eternity. But barring a transformational event, voters will pull the lever against Obamacare in 2014.

The cards are stacked for Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate and holding their majority in the House of Representatives. Thirty-three Senate seats will be in play. The 13 held by Republicans are considered safe. But most of the seats currently held by Democrats are in swing states or Republican-leaning states, giving the GOP several election opportunities. Republicans need only six wins to gain control of the Senate. By the way, three of those states -- Iowa, Virginia, and Arkansas -- will be hit with the highest premium increases in the individual market.

History suggests Republicans will have little trouble holding on to their current House majority. Midterm elections generally produce House losses for the president’s party.

With the GOP in charge of both houses after 2014, entitlement reform will be redefined to mean defunding the huge new entitlements in the Affordable Care Act -- the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies to health plan buyers in the exchanges. The best way to reform entitlements is not to fund new ones. It’s a lot easier to take away an entitlement no one is accustomed to. Defunding will reduce federal spending by $1.6 trillion through 2020.

GOP governors who recently announced they will expand Medicaid made a bet against defeating Obamacare, They will get clobbered after 2014. They will be stuck with vastly expanded Medicaid enrollments and no way to pay the tab except burdening their own state taxpayers.

It’s not over till it’s over. 

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About the Author
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Analysis and author of Beating Obamacare 2014.