There are some good provisions in the new health care reform law. Provisions all members of Congress agreed on and ones that could have been the basis for a bipartisan bill. They include not denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, and allowing adult children to remain on their parent's policies until age 26.
Those provisions cost the Federal government very little.
The bad provisions in the bill are multiple. Let's start with requiring everyone to purchase health care. How will this be enforced? It will be enforced by a new cadre of Internal Revenue Service police. The IRS will be in charge of verifying that you have "acceptable" health care coverage required by the new bureaucracy at the Department of Health and Human Services.
If you do not have insurance or your insurance is deemed "unacceptable" then you are subject to a fine of up to $2,250 or two percent of your income. The good news is that the fine is cheaper than buying health insurance and since you can buy health insurance at any time if you require it, then paying the fine actually will save you a great deal of money.
The bad news is that if you don't have the money for the fine, the IRS has the authority to confiscate your tax refund.
If this were not bad enough, estimates are that it will require some 16,000 new IRS auditors, agents and other employees to enforce the rules. The cost for that is between $5 and $10 billion over ten years and that money is not accounted for anywhere in the bill-more deficit spending.
There are tax credits and subsidies in the law that will help people pay for their health insurance. Who pays for that?
The $1.2 trillion price tag for the bill has to come from somewhere over the next ten years. "Fine," you say, "let them get more money from the people who make more than $200,000 a year." But some 60 percent of those people are small business owners, who are our financial engine for new jobs-from the family farm to the mom and pop retailer. This means fewer opportunities for businesses to expand and hire more workers.
In addition, if a small business owner has 50 or more employees, he or she must provide health insurance or be fined $2000 per employee. The fine also applies if the health coverage the employer provides is deemed "unaffordable" by Washington. What small business owner would knowingly now go from 48 or 47 employees to 50 knowing what the government has in store for them? And how many small business owners will go from 55 employees down to 49 in order to have the threat of fines removed?
The bill is also paid for by cuts to Medicare of more than half a trillion dollars. The Democrats say this will come from tackling waste, fraud and abuse. That is a laudable goal, but we have been working on waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare for many years and it hasn't improved significantly. I hope it does, but if it doesn't, it means more deficit spending. Plus $200 billion of that half a trillion dollars is the elimination of Medicare Advantage programs for our seniors.
Finally, it will be paid for by taxes on Cadillac insurance plans, but that does not go into effect until 2018, when many of those who voted for this huge expansion may not still be in office. New Members of Congress may not be very upbeat about watching those taxes go into effect under their watch.
It is very much like the $310 billion "doc fix" measure that the Congress will soon pass in order to avoid a 21 percent cut in reimbursements to physicians. The cuts in reimbursement rates are leftover from a previous attempt to save money. It has never been allowed by Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not include the "doc fix" in her bill because it would have put them further in the red. It will pass separately this week or next, because the deadline is March 31. It will not be paid for either. But it has to be done or physicians will stop accepting Medicare patients, which is already happening.
Then there is the significant increase in Medicaid. States pay a huge portion of this cost, that is why there was the "cornhusker kickback" and other deals made. States are strapped and can't afford this new mandate. So some 14 states are suing the federal government over this unfunded mandate and whether or not requiring citizens to purchase something is constitutional. If it is, next they will be requiring us to buy a certain type of car. That is much cheaper than "cash for clunkers."
This new law gives us six years of spending and 10 years of taxes and Medicare cuts. Our deficit now is such that every man, woman and child in the United States owes $40,000 each. This new law will send that number spiraling out of control.
A Republican measure would have done something about the explosion of costs due to medical liability. It would have allowed you to purchase insurance across state lines, thereby increasing competition and lowering rates. It would have done so without raising taxes, increasing the debt or cutting Medicare.
I can only touch on a few of the reasons I voted against the bill. We are still discovering what is in the more than 3,000 pages of the Senate bill, the reconciliation package and the manager's amendment. The surprises are still to come and I believe only a few will be good.
Congressman Glenn `GT' Thompson represents Pennsylvania's 5th District. He is a republican from Howard.