Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius testified last week at the House Ways and Means Committee on the fiscal year 2012 budget—although the question period centered on Obamacare. Sebelius opined that the new health care law will increase patient access to physicians and hospitals, provide more choices for Medicare beneficiaries, create jobs, and allow those who are happy with their current plans to keep them. However, reality paints a different picture.
First, Obamacare will not increase access to health care for many seniors. For example, as a result of the $200 billion cut to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, insurance companies are caught in a bind as to whether or not they should cut benefits and offer less appealing plans or leave the program altogether.
Sebelius said there is no evidence this will happen, but Heritage’s analysts have demonstrated that the cuts will result in less generous benefits for MA beneficiaries, less access to care, and, therefore, fewer choices as a result of losing their MA coverage and joining traditional Medicare.
Second, Obamacare will not create jobs overall, although the bureaucracy will expand. Sebelius confirmed that 4,700 positions in HHS and 1,000 positions in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will open up in order to fully implement Obamacare. At the same time that more power is given to the bureaucrats in Washington, many businesses across the nation are struggling and have to decide if they can keep all the employees they currently have with the new mandates. Heritage analyst Brian Blase argues that the employer mandates and penalties that Obamacare places on businesses “will in turn reduce business growth and hiring.”
Abbott Laboratories in Chicago has stated that it has cut 9,000 jobs and will be forced to cut an additional 1,900 in the near future because of the changing health care regulatory environment. Various other hearings over the past year have had business owners and experts share their experiences of having to size down their businesses in order to comply with the Obamacare mandates.
Third, you may not be able to keep your existing coverage plan. Congressman Dave Reichart (R–WA) stated that there was language placed in the bill that runs counter to the premise that people can keep their current plans. These “promises are already falling apart,” he said, as seven out of 10 employers will not able to keep their grandfathered plan status.
When Reichart asked the Secretary if it is an accurate statement to say, “You’re able to keep your health care plan and your doctor if you like it,” the Secretary refused to give a yes-or-no answer. In recent Heritage research, health care expert John Hoff highlights many ways in which Americans will not be able to keep their health care plans the way it stands now. With new provisions applying to health insurance plans, regulations limiting the ability to obtain grandfather status, and MA experiencing cuts, many Americans will soon see their plans change or risk losing their existing plans altogether.
Sebelius also continued to express a misunderstanding of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program in an exchange with Congressman Charles Boustany (R–LA). Despite the statute that makes CLASS an explicit opt-out program, the Secretary responded that it had not yet been determined whether enrollment in CLASS will be opt-in or opt-out. In a way, her interpretation of the legislation goes to the heart of separation of powers and whether the unelected bureaucracy can simply rewrite a program created through an act of Congress.
Sebelius doesn’t seem to understand that Obamacare is more unpopular than ever because people and businesses are afraid of its plethora of mandates and increase of government control and spending. Obamacare must be repealed in order to achieve real health care reform that more wisely spends taxpayer money and allows for a greater amount of consumer choice.
Co-authored by Amanda Rae Kronquist. Kronquist is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm