Joe Pitts, July 12, 2013
Thereís a routine scene that shows up in many comedy television shows and movies. The characters assemble something complex, often a car engine. At the end of assembly, they are left with a single part left over. Someone usually looks at this part and remarks, "I hope that wasnít important." Sometimes the scene ends with the engine blowing up and the charactersí faces covered in soot.
Obamacare is perhaps one of the most complex government "engines" to ever be assembled. The law itself ran to more than 2,700 pages when Congress was considering it. Various government agencies are now in the process of turning that law into tens of thousands of pages of regulations. Those regulations then have to be implemented by thousands of government bureaucrats, many of whom will be new to their jobs.
Implementation of critical pieces of the law is looming and already the Presidentís administration is piling up spare parts. Thereís no telling how Obamacare will work as pieces of the law are cast aside in the interest of politics or expediency.
One of the first major pieces of the law to fall apart was the CLASS Act, a government-run long-term care insurance program. The CLASS Act was included mainly because it boosted the short-term finances of the law. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that this portion of the law would bring in $70 billion in revenue in the first ten years.
The problem was that in the second decade of the CLASS Act, it would begin paying out guaranteed benefits. Detailed studies showed that these benefits would soon outstrip revenues, bankrupting the program. Fortunately, Senate Republicans were able to add language to the CLASS Act requiring the program to stand on its own.
The Department of Health and Human Services simply couldnít find a way to get CLASS running and ensure that it wouldnít need a big bailout one day. The President stopped implementation and Congress repealed that portion of the law at the beginning of this year.
Upon passing the law, the President bragged that it would help Americans with pre-existing conditions get coverage. The Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan was supposed to provide coverage for needy Americans for three years. However, the plan was underfunded from the beginning. Itís quickly burned through the $5 billion that was allocated.
Earlier this year, the administration closed the program to new enrollees. Now, theyíve told states that funds are running dry and insisted that they either limit benefits or turn their programs over to the federal government. Thousands of Americans have been locked out of health coverage.
Part of the law required the government to set up a new health care exchange for small businesses that would allow workers to choose from a number of different health care plans. A few months ago, the government announced that this portion of the law would be delayed for at least another year.
Just last week, the administration announced that they were also delaying implementation of the employer mandate. The mandate requires businesses over a certain size to provide health insurance. The government has fallen hopelessly behind in drafting the regulations for the mandate. Most business owners Iíve spoken with are very confused about what the law would require of them and whether or not they would be subject to the mandate.
Also last week, the Treasury Department announced that it would use the honor system to determine whether individuals are eligible for subsidies to purchase insurance. These subsidies are only supposed to be for people below a certain income and who donít have access to employer-based insurance.
The government canít figure out a simple way to verify this information, so theyíve decided not to try. They are just going to take peopleís word for it, certainly leading to rampant fraud. Already, the administration has doubled the projection of how much these subsidies will cost.
Obamacare is certainly coming together, but in a haphazard way. Earlier this year, a top official mused that they are just trying to make sure implementation is "not a third-world experience." Thatís unacceptable. If Obamacare is unworkable, then we should repeal it, not build an engine that is going to blow up in our faces.
Congressman Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District, which includes Lancaster County and parts of Chester County and Berks County.
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