On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was signed into law. Critics of the legislation said it was massive government overreach that would kill jobs, be too complicated to enforce fairly, harm seniors, and cause healthcare costs to skyrocket. Almost three and a half years later, all of these predictions are coming true.
One part of Obamacare is known as the employer mandate. This provision requires any company with fifty or more employees to provide comprehensive health insurance to their employees or face steep new taxes. This has the negative effect of encouraging companies to find ways to stay below the fifty employee cutoff. The mandate also defines a full time employee as somebody who works 30 or more hours per week, creating an incentive for companies to move current employees to part-time status. Put simply, it’s a jobs killer.
The employer mandate was slated to go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Recently, the administration leaked its decision to postpone enforcement by one year. On the surface this is welcome news. However, two problems stand out: (1) the administration is stating it has the authority to pick and choose which parts of the law it wants to enforce, and (2) the delay is only for companies with fifty or more employees. Smaller businesses and individuals are still subject to all the rules, regulations, and mandates of Obamacare.
Obamacare also sets up “exchanges” where people who do not receive insurance through their employers can purchase their own plan. Week before last, the administration declared it would not attempt to verify the income levels or employment statuses of people participating in these exchanges. If a person lies about how much money he makes to receive a bigger taxpayer subsidy for health insurance, nobody is going to stop him. The public will be on the Obamacare honor system. Given the sorry history of waste and abuse in every other government entitlement program, this is an open invitation to fraud on an epic scale.
When it comes to costs, “rate shock” is already occurring around the country as various states announce the prices of insurance plans that will be available on the exchanges. In Mississippi, insurance premiums on the individual market could double or triple. Even worse, there are entire regions of our state where there may not be any individual insurance plans available to purchase.
Seniors do not escape the negative effects of Obamacare. The law empowers a group of unelected bureaucrats known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to ration seniors’ health care. In a law full of terrible provisions, the IPAB may be the worst. We need to replace it with reforms that put seniors and their doctors in charge of health care decisions.
Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, a key architect of Obamacare, recently admitted implementation is a “train wreck.” The question before us now is what can be done to prevent or slow it down. The most obvious answer is what the House has voted for multiple times: full repeal.
The next best option is to follow the model of previous efforts to repeal the most offensive parts of the law. Most notably, we repealed the ridiculous requirement that businesses keep a 1099 for every single vendor with whom they paid more than $600 in a year. We should apply this precedent to the employer mandate. The administration has already admitted this provision is having a negative effect on jobs; they should be able to take it one step further and agree to repeal.
A third option would be for the president and his party to agree to a one-year delay for the individual mandate. If enforcement is going to be delayed for large employers, common sense and fairness suggests it should be delayed for individuals, families, and small businesses as well. House leadership has indicated we will vote on legislation along these lines this week.
Facts on the ground continue to prove the conservative position that Obamacare is an unwarranted intrusion on our individual liberties. It is killing jobs, making a mockery of the rule of law, and increasing the cost of health care. For these reasons, I remain committed to its full repeal so we can start over and have health insurance reform that lowers costs and works for the American people.
U.S. REP. ALAN NUNNELEE, R-Miss., resides in Tupelo and represents the 1st Congressional District. He is in his second congressional term. He wrote his comments for the Daily Journal.