Obamacare Meets Increasing Resistance on Many Fronts

Posted: Jul 19, 2013 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON -- The White House and its liberal allies in the news media have launched an all-out campaign to peddle Obamacare to an understandably doubting public.

While just about every poll in the country is telling the administration that Americans care more about finding a job and getting a weak economy back on track, President Obama is out promoting his signature social welfare law: the government's de facto takeover of the nation's health care.

A front-page article in Wednesday's New York Times, one of Obama's staunchest political allies, trumpets the administration's line that the Affordable Care Act will cost New Yorkers a lot less than they thought. Of course, there is no way anyone can predict that for certain, because all the pieces haven't been completed yet, despite a looming October deadline for a national system of health insurance exchanges that is nowhere near its 50-state goal.

Then The Washington Post ran a front-page sales pitch Thursday that said the White House has put together a political team from its 2008 and 2012 campaigns to "persuade young and minority voters" to sign up for the government's health care plan.

The person in charge of this initiative, working out of the White House, was Obama's campaign director of public opinion research and polling. And you thought that health care professionals were in charge of Obamacare?

But let's not mince words. Obamacare's in trouble and facing a minefield of postponements, delays, setbacks, and a growing list of implementation failures. To make it work financially, millions of uninsured must sign up for medical coverage, especially younger, healthier people, and that's very much in doubt right now.

Obamacare's long-term nursing plan for the elderly has been repealed after the administration concluded that it was financially unworkable. About half the states have decided against creating their own health insurance exchanges, a central pillar in the system, letting the federal government run the exchanges instead. The administration has just announced that it is delaying the employer health insurance mandate until 2015, a critical component in the new law's finances.

But right after the administration made its surprising we're-not-ready-for-prime-time announcement, Health and Human Services released a video saying Obamacare was "on schedule." Sure.

The Heritage Foundation, one of Obamacare's chief critics, notes a Government Accountability Office report released last month that said the failure to complete the federal exchange system and the other missed deadlines "suggest a potential for challenges going forward."

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee chairman Kevin Brady ticks off some of the pivotal implementing machinery that remains a long ways from completion: income verification: postponed; the Data Hub: behind schedule; employer insurance verification: delayed.

Democrats have been unusually blunt in their criticism of the administration's incompetence. Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman who helped write the law, now says it's heading toward "a train wreck."

House Republicans, pointing to the employer mandate delay, passed legislation Wednesday to enact the one-year postponement into law and similarly delay the insurance mandate for individuals, too.

Rep. Dave Camp, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, lashed out at an administration that "thinks only businesses should be exempt from the pain inflicted by Obamacare. How is that fair? Families and individuals are already struggling in this Obama economy. They are paying more for gas, more for food, and wages aren't keeping up with the ever-increasing costs of everyday life. Don't these hardworking Americans deserve the same relief?"

A strong point. With so many Americans out of work, how can anyone justify forcing people to buy insurance they do not want or that will wreak havoc with their limited budget?

The individual mandate will become effective next year when anyone who isn't insured will be fined, starting at $95 in 2013 and rising to $695 in 2016.

As the deadline for Obamacare draws near, more and more businesses with 50 or more employees are taking steps to avoid its mandates. Wegmans grocery chain, for example, is curbing health coverage for part-time workers, throwing them instead into the government's exchanges.

Businesses are required by law to offer health insurance to employees who put in 30 hours or more a week, though many will reduce their workers' hours to dodge the costs.

"Wegmans is one of thousands of employers likely to make the same decision," says health care analyst Grace-Marie Turner at the Galen Institute think tank.

A growing chorus of economists is now pointing to the perverse outcome that Obamacare will spawn throughout our economy. Small businesses will reduce their workforce below the 50-worker level or cut part-time hours to escape the mandate altogether.

Businesses large and small, especially those who are struggling to survive in the anemic Obama economy, will begin to scale back their workforce, finding ways to boost output with fewer workers to reduce health care costs.

In the fifth year of Obama's presidency, unemployment is still skirting 8 percent nationally. "It is now four years from the recovery's start, and the number of jobs is still 2.2 million below the pre-recession peak," says economist Robert J. Samuelson. "Since World War II, this has never happened."

Obama's prescription in the midst of a persistently high jobless rate and record long-term unemployment: Impose new, costly overhead mandates on employers across the board.

"There is an unambiguous incentive now for employers to stop providing health insurance, prepare to pay the penalty, and send their employees to the exchanges instead where they can get much-more-heavily subsidized coverage," economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin told a Capitol Hill health care forum on Monday.

Also this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a survey that found half of the small businesses it polled will cut their full-time employees by lowering their hours worked or replace them with part-timers. Seventy-one percent said Obamacare will make it harder to hire more workers.

If Obama's mandates are not repealed, this will be his long-term legacy.