After over one year and an extraordinary abuse of the legislative process, President Obama has managed to force his health plan through the House. While he and his liberal allies may consider this a victory, it's a defeat for the American people, the economy, and our health care system.
The legislation approved by House Democrats on Sunday does not deserve the name "health care reform." Real reform would make medical care more affordable, increase health care choices, and expand access to doctors and treatments. Not only does ObamaCare fail on all of these counts, in many cases it makes current problems even worse.
Far from cutting costs, the legislation actually imposes new taxes and mandates that will make it even harder for Americans to afford insurance. The bill contains almost $570 billion in new taxes on individuals and businesses. Employers that can't afford to provide insurance, or who offer coverage invalidated by the new regulations, will be hit with $52 billion in punitive new taxes -- $2,000 per employee. Companies that do offer insurance will see their costs rise, as well, as new benefits requirements push the cost of insurance plans ever higher. Workers will suffer the consequences, as businesses pass these crushing new costs on in the form of lower wages or fewer hires.
Fewer jobs and higher insurance premiums will inevitably mean that more people will be unable to afford private insurance. Those who don't have coverage face the prospect of penalty taxes or being forced into government-administered health exchanges -- or Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that one million additional Americans will get their coverage through Medicaid after the bill is implemented -- the largest expansion of the program in history. Consequently, payments to Medicaid care providers will likely be cut, further lowering the quality and availability of care for Medicaid recipients. Even with these cuts, state costs for Medicaid will skyrocket. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority estimates that Oklahomans will have to pay an additional $128 million in Medicaid costs.
In addition to pushing costs onto taxpayers and cash-strapped states, the Democrats' legislation will raid Medicare to pay for the massive new entitlements, cutting this program on which so many seniors depend by more than $523 billion.
For anyone who believes such drastic changes will not affect health care quality, the writing is on the wall. A New England Journal of Medicine study released last week found that 46 percent of primary care physicians surveyed said that "the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine." If even a fraction of these doctors follow through on their plans, Americans will see a decrease in the supply of health care that will impact access for everyone.
The divisive process by which President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have rammed this bill through Congress is almost as misguided as the legislation itself. Over the adamant objections of the American people, the Democratic majority has pursued their agenda through extraordinary exploitation of parliamentary rules and vote-buying kickbacks that have further diminished Americans' confidence in their government.
This undermining of the legislative process is all the more unfortunate considering that real reform could be achieved with bipartisan consensus and broad public support. Plans have repeatedly been proposed and that would lower costs and increase access without creating new taxes or expanding government control.
Instead, President Obama and congressional liberals have chosen to ignore the American people and push through this divisive, budget-busting government takeover of health care. Unless conservatives can reverse the legislation or succeed in minimizing the damage, the American people will be paying the price for years to come.