By Representative Michele Bachmann
For healthcare reform to work, it must give consumers control over their costs and over their coverage. Unfortunately, ObamaCare does just the opposite. It takes away patient choice and drives up the cost of healthcare. A new report from Kaiser says a typical employer-based health insurance premium has increased by 9 percent in just the past year, with that cost projected to double over the next decade. The government's own actuary for Medicare and Medicaid says that in 2014, premiums will rise by 10 percent more than they would have without ObamaCare.
Spending on healthcare already consumes about one-sixth of our nation's gross domestic product, and ObamaCare is making things worse. By replacing individual choice with coverage benefits that are government-mandated and enforced, the Obama administration is pushing costs upward, diminishing the hiring potential of many small businesses. As the financial service firm UBS recently noted, ObamaCare is "arguably the biggest impediment to hiring (particularly hiring of less skilled workers)."
The fallout will worsen as ObamaCare mandates kick in. Companies with fewer than 50 employees will stop hiring in order to stay under the limit, while companies with 50 employees or more will simply drop health insurance coverage and pay a less costly government fine. The number of uninsured will increase, and millions more people will be dumped onto government programs, taxing a system that is already going broke with Medicare and Medicaid.
Even the administration cannot justify some of the signature provisions of ObamaCare. For example, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recently reported that one provision, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, is not financially viable. If implemented, the CLASS Act for long-term care would eventually need taxpayer subsidies to stay afloat.
More than ever, repealing all of ObamaCare is a crucial step that must happen as part of a broader plan to rescue our economy from another devastating recession. The sooner this behemoth is put away, the sooner a massive regulatory burden will be lifted off the private sector. Only then can we be on a path to certainty, and recovery and hiring will ensue.
Once we are rid of President Obama's failed experiment in healthcare reform, we can work on what the American people want: healthcare reform that gives them control over their costs and control over their coverage.
We should start by fixing an unfair tax policy. Health insurance provided through the workplace provides a tax-free benefit. That benefit should have a reasonable cap, and resulting savings should be used to apply a similar tax break for people who buy private coverage. While it would be better to scrap our whole tax code and replace it with a fairer system, this step would be a good start toward helping people buy health insurance.
The market for health insurance should be expanded across state lines. By giving people the opportunity to buy health insurance from anywhere in the country, consumers will have more options from which to choose. Increasing competition is one of the most effective means for driving down prices.
Individual choice will also allow consumers who don't have employer-provided coverage to purchase more affordable high-deductible insurance. Couple that with health savings accounts , which allow people to use their pre-tax income for healthcare costs, and the number of uninsured who want healthcare coverage can be greatly reduced.
The federal government can also incentivize state-based solutions. States could make it easier for consumers to pool together for group rates. They could improve on high-risk pools for people with prior medical conditions, and states could also be encouraged to convert Medicaid dollars into vouchers for the purpose of buying private insurance.
There are other options to be explored, including medical liability reform, incentives that encourage prevention, and real efforts to end the waste and abuse in government healthcare programs. The goal should always be to lower the cost of healthcare and to give the American people more choices and freedom to make the best healthcare decisions. But, those goals cannot be achieved until we start with a complete repeal of ObamaCare.
Bachmann is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.