Op-Ed: New Health Care Law Will Increase Costs, Reduce Benefits

Throughout the year-long debate over health care reform, President Obama promised that the legislation would reduce the spiraling cost of health care and that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it. But a couple of new government reports confirm what many of us who opposed a federal takeover of the health care system feared all along - higher costs, less access and unsustainable spending.

According to Rick Foster, the chief actuary of the administration's own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), President Obama's new health care reform law will actually increase national health care spending by $311 billion over the next 10 years. Foster's report also said that about 14 million people would lose their employer coverage by 2019, largely as a result of small employers terminating coverage and workers who currently have employer coverage enrolling in Medicaid.

There are a lot of things wrong with the health care law, starting with the half trillion dollars in new taxes and the $529 billion in Medicare cuts. The CMS report warns that those whopping Medicare cuts may not be realistic and sustainable, potentially driving 15 percent of all hospitals, nursing homes and similar providers into the red within 10 years. Providers that depend on Medicare for a substantial part of their business could be forced to drop out of the program "possibly jeopardizing access to care" for senior citizens, according to the CMS report.

The situation in Alaska is particularly dire. In March 2009, the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska (ISER) reported that 13 out of 75 primary care physicians in Anchorage were accepting new Medicare patients. Just 15 months later, that number has dropped to the single digits. Further cuts to Medicare will only worsen the situation for the most vulnerable Alaskans -- seniors and the disabled.

The CMS report also said that an estimated 23 million people would remain uninsured in 2019. Of those 23 million, about five million would be illegal aliens while the remaining 18 million would be individuals who choose not to be insured and will be forced to pay a penalty associated with the law's mandate of up to 2 percent of one's income. So despite the $2.6 trillion that this law will cost in the first 10 years of full implementation, a substantial number of Americans still will remain uninsured.

CMS says that the health care law will impose billions of dollars in annual fees on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription drugs and on health insurance plans, and new taxes on medical device sales. CMS said it anticipates that these new fees and taxes will be passed down to consumers in the form of higher drug and device prices and higher insurance premiums, raising health care costs from $2.1 billion in 2011 to $18.2 billion in 2018.

Throughout the health care debate, Americans were told the Democrats' health care reform measure would make premiums more affordable; instead, as the President's own actuary at CMS confirms, Americans will face higher premiums, more job-killing taxes and additional layers of new government bureaucracy.

Just this past week, the Congressional Budget Office revised its initial cost estimate to say that the law will likely cost $115 billion more in discretionary spending over 10 years than the original cost projection. Nearly every day the American people learn a little more about the high costs and reduced benefits in this new law. That's why I strongly support Alaska's efforts to strike the most egregious provisions of the law through a multistate lawsuit and why I voted to repeal the entire law this past March.

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