By Grace-Marie Turner
ObamaCare is taking on water as we head into the second anniversary since it passed, and the news about the president's signature legislation gets worse by the day.
To mark the law's two-year anniversary, the House of Representatives is planning a vote to repeal one of the law's most unpopular provisions -- the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which many seniors fear will become Medicare's rationing board.
A few days later, the Supreme Court will hear a remarkable six hours of oral argument in the case with 26 states challenging the law's constitutionality. Demonstrators will fill the streets outside the Supreme Court during the three days of hearings March 26-28.
For much of the last year, the White House had adopted a "strategy of silence" on ObamaCare. That's clearly over.
After the 2010 election drubbing, the president rarely talked about his signature legislative achievement and even when he did, he only spoke about the small early provisions -- 26-year-old children on their parents' insurance, "free" preventive care, and more help for seniors with their drug costs.
For a while, the strategy was working. ObamaCare has died down as a major issue. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to repeal the law a year ago, and, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, about half of those polled afterward thought the law has been repealed or weren't sure. The confusion -- and the lack of their basic knowledge of civics -- suited the White House just fine.
But ObamaCare is back to center stage this month, and the more people learn about the law, the more unpopular it becomes. Here are just some of the recent revelations:
· Soaring costs. ObamaCare will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade, according to a new projection released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office, rather than the $940 billion forecast when it was signed into law.
The new 10-year projections cover nine years of ObamaCare's implementation (2013-2022). Original estimates counted only six years of implementation -- a budget gimmick to obscure the true cost of the law. At this rate, the conservative estimates of ObamaCare's cost will be $2 trillion over 10 years, not the $1 trillion that President Obama promised.
· Lost coverage. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) released a statement saying that the CBO's estimate also shows that the new health law will dramatically increase Medicaid spending and result in 4 million fewer people getting health insurance through their jobs. So much for being able to keep the coverage you have now "no matter what," as the president promised.
· Opposition locked in. An AP-GfK poll taken early this month shows that only about a third of Americans (35 percent) support the health care law, while nearly half (47 percent) oppose it. That's about the same split as when it passed.
Opposition remains strongest among seniors, many of whom object to Medicare cuts that were used to help finance coverage for younger uninsured people.
· Anti-conscience mandate. And then there is the mega-controversy the administration created over the anti-conscience contraceptive mandate. The president had tried to make the issue about "women's health." But the American people understand that it is a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed protection of religious freedom to force Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities to cover drugs that cause abortion, sterilization, and contraceptives in violation of their strong moral beliefs.
A new poll from The New York Times and CBS News reveals that a substantial majority of Americans -- 57 percent to 36 percent -- favor an exemption for religious-affiliated employers. And a sizable majority -- 51 percent to 40 percent -- still favors a religious and moral exemption for all employers. This is the same poll that shows the president's approval rating dropping to 41 percent.
· Loss of 25 Dem seats. President Obama personally promised Democratic members of Congress that if they voted for the bill, their constituents soon would thank them, arguing that a vote against the bill would be most damaging.
Yet a new study by American Politics Research found that at least 25 members of Congress lost their seats in Congress during the 2010 elections precisely because they voted for ObamaCare.
· Bi-partisan opposition to ObamaCare is brewing. When the House of Representatives votes next week on repealing ObamaCare's unaccountable, unelected IPAB board, at least some Democrats are likely to support repeal. The IPAB repeal bill, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), received bi-partisan support as it made its way through House committees, showing that Democrats are equally worried about the power of the board to usurp the job of the people's elected representatives.
· Employers will drop coverage. A new study of employers conducted by Willis Human Capital Practice found that employers expect higher health costs for both employers and employees as a result of ObamaCare, and many expect to shift employees into taxpayer-paid coverage once the option is available. That shift would certainly exacerbate the exploding costs of the law.
Last year, health costs rose 9 percent for employers, triple the rate of the year before ObamaCare's provisions began to be implemented. Employers expect costs to only go higher.
· Investors recoil. Uncertainty about the future of the health sector is also drying up investor capital -- and threatening tomorrow's medical innovations. The share of venture dollars flowing to seed and early-stage investments in biotechnology and medical devices has plummeted since 2007, when investors pumped $3.6 billion into 332 deals in which a price was disclosed,according to data compiled for Kaiser Health News by FactSet Research Systems. Overall venture investing declined by nearly one-third as the economic recession set in.
The list goes on: If public opposition is hardening now against ObamaCare, just wait until the mandate kicks in on January 1, 2014, when everyone will be required to purchase expensive government-dictated health insurance under penalty of federal law. And as seniors find it harder and harder to find a doctor who can afford to see them. And as they begin to fear the impact of the cuts of ObamaCare's rationing board. And as states find it is impossible to provide basic services because the mandate to vastly expand Medicaid is gobbling up virtually all of their budgets. And as the unemployment rate refuses to drop because employers are frightened about the huge costs they are facing with the employer mandate. And as taxpayers see the gusher of red ink that will explode the federal budget deficit as ObamaCare's subsidy costs explode.
If the Supreme Court does not throw out the whole law, the voters will have to finish the job with their votes in November.