Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: April 16, 2013
IF Obamacare were a product sold on the private market, its makers would already face class-action lawsuits based on the false and misleading claims used to sell it. Virtually every promise made about the law has already been broken.
In 2009, President Barack Obama famously declared that “no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”
But now we know the insurance plans offered through Obamacare's state exchanges will have much more limited provider networks than those offered elsewhere; doctor choices will be restricted. Also, a recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey found that 62 percent of physicians believe it's “likely” that many doctors will retire earlier than planned over the next three years.
The law's perverse incentives could cause companies to drop coverage and dump employees into Medicaid or the exchange system, meaning citizens may not keep their insurance plan either. And insurance costs are rising.
Now it's been revealed that yet another Obamacare cost estimate was wrong. Federal Health and Human Services Department budget documents show the agency now expects to spend $4.4 billion by the end of this year on grants to help states set up online insurance exchanges. That's more than double last year's estimate. HHS also is seeking another $1.5 billion to help set up federally run exchanges in states that don't establish their own, including Oklahoma.
The surging cost of the exchanges is evidence Gov. Mary Fallin made the right call when deciding Oklahoma would not build its exchange for the federal government. We were among those initially supportive of a state exchange, believing it would be better if Oklahoma had some control. But Fallin concluded that Obamacare's regulations meant such exchanges would be “state-run” in name only and “would require Oklahoma resources, staff and tax dollars to implement.” Fallin wasn't alone in reaching that conclusion. Only 17 states and Washington, D.C., have been conditionally approved to run their own exchanges.
Fallin reached her decision over time after previously accepting — then rejecting — a $54 million grant to build an exchange. Some were shocked at rejecting “free” money (never mind its impact on federal debt). But HHS's new budget request indicates the $54 million was likely insufficient. And, given the dramatic increase in cost, it's not unreasonable to assume the federal government will eventually offload more associated expenses onto states running their own exchanges. Fallin's decision may prevent state tax dollars from being diverted from schools, roads and public safety in order to maintain the exchange in the future.
Predictably, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blames Obamacare's problematic rollout on Republican governors and states that have chosen not to run their own exchange or expand Medicaid. “It is very difficult when people live in a state where there is a daily declaration, ‘We will not participate in the law,'” Sebelius said recently.
In reality, the problem for Obamacare defenders is that critiques raised when Obamacare was crafted are being proven right; supporters' claims are being proven wrong again and again. That's not the result of alleged obstructionism. It's a consequence of Obamacare's many inherent flaws.