October 04, 2010

Four Thousand Pages Of Broken Promises

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

In the six months since enactment of health care reform, the 2,733-page Senate health care bill has ballooned into more than 4,000 pages of regulations and the creation of at least 159 new boards and programs. The unfortunate outcome of this overwhelming implementation is numerous broken promises. Throughout the health care debate, I, along with many of my colleagues, stated repeatedly that this bill would result in cuts to Medicare, higher taxes and increased health care costs and insurance premiums for Americans. Unfortunately, we were correct, despite repeated remonstrances to the contrary.

The cuts made to Medicare through the health care law were used to create a new entitlement program, not to preserve the solvency of the program as promised. As a result, seniors will lose access to care. According to the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), nearly 40 percent of Medicare providers will become unprofitable, causing providers to withdraw from the Medicare program and resulting in serious problems with seniors' access to care. Medicare Advantage enrollment is also estimated by the CMS Actuary to decrease by 7.4 million seniors. According to the Administration, approximately one million seniors will have to change their Medicare Advantage plans and others will lose Medicare Advantage access. This is a stark contrast to Administration claims that those who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated an average more than $800 loss in annual benefits for seniors who stay in Medicare Advantage.

Also, despite proponents' claims, the health care law contained substantial taxes, mandates and penalties that hurt Americans and small businesses. In fact, the law subjects 40 million businesses to new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting requirements, creating additional onerous business paperwork burdens for our nation's small businesses trying to recover from the economic downturn. The law also inflicts tax increases of more than half a trillion dollars, including more than $200 billion in payroll taxes and more than $100 million in taxes on drug and device manufacturers and insurers, which will ultimately be passed on to the patient and the consumer.

The increased taxes, mandates and penalties in the bill will have strong consequences for America's businesses. The CBO found that penalties will generally be passed on to workers through reduced wages or other forms of compensation, and some employers may respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers. Further, CBO found that approximately 750,000 people could exit the work force as a result of increases in marginal tax rates discouraging work. By 2013, more than 50 percent of American workers are estimated to lose their current health care coverage.

Additionally, health care costs and premiums will increase for many Americans, not decrease as promised. The CMS Actuary estimated increased health costs of more than $310.8 million, and according to CBO estimates, premiums will increase by an average $2,100 per family. There are also reports that health insurers have pursued substantial premium increases. A Heritage Foundation report explained the situation plainly, "If government requires that a product be made more generous and be available to more individuals, its cost will increase. There is no way around the fact that the vast majority of Americans will be paying higher prices for their insurance…"

The broken promises of health care reform are evident in the numbers:
• Medicare cuts - $529 billion;
• New taxes and fees on Americans - $569 billion;
• Pages of new regulations - 4,103 and rapidly growing;
• Broken promises - too many to count.

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