President Obama and Washington Democrats pursued seismic health care reforms for two stated reasons: expanding coverage while controlling costs.
Today, one year to the day after the president signed what he considered his crowning legislative achievement -- and three years before its controversial individual mandate and other major provisions take effect -- the legislation has not met either goal. In fact, there is evidence it has done just the opposite, shutting more people out of the private insurance market while increasing the costs of those with coverage.
A federal judge already has ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, siding with states that argued the federal government cannot require citizens to purchase private health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue within the next couple of years, but the pending decision hasn't immunized states and businesses from the law's burdensome requirements.
Millions of workers saw their insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs increase this year as employers moved to comply with the law's new mandates, including coverage of children regardless of pre-existing conditions, of adult children through age 26, of some counseling and mental health treatments and the elimination of lifetime coverage maximums. Those same expensive mandates have made it difficult for scores of self-employed Americans and small businesses to afford coverage in a sour economy.
"You actually need health insurance because you stroke out reading your bill," Bob D'Errico, owner of the Sunset Collision Center in Henderson, told the Review-Journal's Jennifer Robison.
High-risk pools created to cover those with pre-existing conditions have faltered. Fewer than 12,500 people have signed up nationwide because of waiting periods and sky-high premiums.
Some insurance companies have stopped writing new health policies for children. States, meanwhile, must start accounting for billions of dollars worth of expanded Medicaid coverage, an unfunded mandate courtesy of ObamaCare.
If the Supreme Court rejects the lower court decision and upholds ObamaCare, the 2014 requirement that businesses offer insurance will put more people out of work, and the mandate that all Americans buy insurance will consume vast amounts of currently disposable income, impacting every sector from retail to restaurants. "The parts that will be more onerous ... are still coming down the pike," said Sam Facchini, co-owner of Metro Pizza in the valley.
But the surest sign this law isn't anything that it's cracked up to be? The Obama administration already has granted hundreds of waivers to prevent companies, nonprofits and unions from dropping their coverage altogether.
America's health care system does indeed need reform. This law takes the wrong approach. Americans need fewer health insurance mandates. They need flexible coverage, tied to their needs and the risks they're willing to take. They don't need a measure intended to wipe out private-sector health insurance and move Americans into a nationalized system of rationed care.
Happy first anniversary, ObamaCare. May you not survive long enough to see your second.