By Sen. Judd Gregg
Published by Politico on October 25, 2010
The origin of the Halloween costume is the belief that a mask disguised the wearer from evil spirits and protected one from harm. It is fitting, then, that this Halloween falls soon after the six-month mark of the infamous health care reform bill; the point when some of its effects begin to be felt.
Disguised as helpful, masked by promises of lower premiums and better coverage and cloaked in the secrecy of backroom deal-making, this law has already begun to inflict great harm on the American people, our economy and our federal budget.
Caught in a cobweb of false promises, the American people were fed a story about how health care reform would insure everyone, allow people to keep their own insurance policies and reduce health care spending while improving quality. Sadly, these were fantasies masquerading as fact. The scary tale that follows needs no skeletons or vampires; statistics alone can frighten you.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promised us that the new law would lower premiums. It has not. Premiums in 2011 will rise more than 12 percent for employer-sponsored coverage, according to a recent Hewitt Associates study. Out-of-pocket costs for workers, meaning co-payments, deductibles and co-insurance, are also likely to rise by almost 13 percent.
We were promised that, if we liked our coverage, we could keep it. But we were misled. The Obama administration recently revealed that employees of nearly 70 percent of U.S. businesses, who get coverage through their job, may lose their current health care plan because of the new regulations. The outlook is even bleaker for employees of small businesses, the backbone of the U.S. economy.
Low-wage workers also stand to suffer as onerous new regulations are implemented. These workers may lose access to their current benefits because the government will prohibit their employers from offering a plan that is affordable and provides substantive benefits for working families. Companies like McDonalds, which help low-income employees with insurance, have put us on notice that they may have to drop coverage.
Even seniors are at risk. The Obama administration announced that nearly one million seniors will lose their current Medicare Advantage plans next year.
We were also promised that the new reforms would reduce health care costs and improve quality. Not true. As more individuals lose their employer-sponsored coverage, forcing them to enroll in government programs, the true cost of implementing the new health care law, $2.6 trillion over 10 years, will grow. Even the Obama administration's own actuaries found that health care spending will increase under the new law, consuming an even larger share of our nation's fragile economy.
In addition, our nation's severe physician shortage is likely to be 50 percent worse than previously forecast, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The current pace of government expansion and federal spending is unaffordable and unsustainable. The national debt will double in five years and triple in 10 under the Democrats' spending plans. The retirement of the baby boom generation and the increased burden on Medicare and Social Security drive these forecasts. Without a return of checks and balances on the majority party, our nation is headed for bankruptcy.
Democratic leaders talk about the need to protect or increase their majorities so that Obama doesn't miss an opportunity to "build upon it next year." Given the nightmare scenario we are facing in our health care system, and our disastrous fiscal situation, this could be more like the return of Freddy Krueger.
The American people have seen through the costume of false promises that conceal the true effects of this far-reaching law, which are likely to haunt us until we reverse course.
It is my hope that the next Congress consists of members who will pass reforms that responsibly address our health care needs while improving the economy. This is what Republicans were calling for in the first place.