Just over three years ago, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously quipped about ObamaCare that "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.
But only now, as ObamaCare's third anniversary approaches — President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010 — is the country starting to find out what the sweeping health care overhaul will actually do.
ObamaCare backers typically tout popular features that went into effect almost immediately. The law expanded Medicare's drug coverage, for example, and let children stay on their parents' plans until they turned 26.
But the bulk of ObamaCare doesn't take effect until next year. That's when the so-called insurance exchanges are supposed to be up and running, when the mandate on individuals and businesses kicks in, and when the avalanche of regulations on the insurance industry hits.
As this start date draws near, evidence is piling up that ObamaCare will:Boost insurance costs. Officially the "Affordable Care Act," ObamaCare promised to lower premiums for families. But regulators decided to impose a 3.5% surcharge on insurance plans sold through federally run exchanges. There's also a $63 fee for every person covered by employers. And the law adds a "premium tax" that will require insurers to pay more than $100 billion over the next decade. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation expects insurers to simply pass this tax onto individuals and small businesses, boosting premiums another 2.5%.
Push millions off employer coverage. In February, the Congressional Budget Office said that 7 million will likely lose their employer coverage thanks to ObamaCare — nearly twice its previous estimate. That number could be as high as 20 million, the CBO says.
Cause premiums to skyrocket. In December, state insurance commissioners warned Obama administration officials that the law's market regulations would likely cause "rate shocks," particularly for younger, healthier people forced by ObamaCare to subsidize premiums for those who are older and sicker.
"We are very concerned about what will happen if essentially there is so much rate shock for young people that they're bound not to purchase (health insurance) at all," said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
That same month, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said ObamaCare will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.
And a more recent survey of insurers in five major cities by the American Action Forum found they expect premiums to climb an average 169%.
Cost people their jobs. The Federal Reserve's March beige book on economic activity noted that businesses "cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff.
Around the same time, Gallup reported a surge in part-time work in advance of ObamaCare's employer mandate. It found that part-timers accounted for almost 21% of the labor force, up from 19% three years ago.
Meanwhile, human resources consulting firm Adecco found that half of the small businesses it surveyed in January either plan to cut their workforce, not hire new workers, or shift to part-time or temporary help because of ObamaCare.
Tax the middle class. IBD reported in February that much of the $800 billion in tax hikes imposed by ObamaCare will end up hitting the middle class, including $45 billion in mandate penalties, $19 billion raised by limiting medical expense deductions, $24 billion through strict limits on flexible spending accounts, plus another $5 billion because ObamaCare bans using FSAs to buy over-the-counter drugs.
Add to the deficit. The Government Accountability Office reported in January that Obama-Care will likely add $6.2 trillion in red ink over 75 years if independent experts are right and several of its cost control measures don't work as advertised.
Cost more than promised. The Congressional Budget Office now says ObamaCare's insurance subsidies will cost $233 billion more over the next decade than it thought last year.
Be a bureaucratic nightmare. Consumers got their first glimpse of life under ObamaCare when the Health and Human Services Department released a draft insurance application form. It runs 21 pages. "Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes," the AP concluded after reviewing the form.
Exacerbate doctor shortages. Last summer, a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than its needs by 2015, thanks in large part to ObamaCare. At the same time, a survey of 13,000 doctors by the Physicians Foundation found that almost 60% of doctors say ObamaCare has made them less optimistic about the future of health care and they would retire today if they could.
Leave millions uninsured. After 10 years, ObamaCare will still leave 30 million without coverage, according to the CBO. As IBD reported, that figure could be much higher if the law causes premiums to spike and encourages people to drop coverage despite the law's mandate.
- Health Care Policy