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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014
Commentary

Grant: Beyond Obamacare

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There are 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care Act that can be condensed into one word: Obamacare. To insure the uninsured, we first make the insured uninsured, and then make them pay more to be insured again so the original uninsured can be insured with a policy most can’t afford and with deductibles beyond the financial reach of most.

Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass it to find out what was in it. They passed it. We read it. It stinks. A bill filled with pork, something both parties said they would not do and is an unworkable attempt at national health care.

The only reasonable solution is to repeal it, something that hopefully will be achieved after an election or two. The mislabeled Affordable Care Act, though perhaps well intended, is beyond repair.

So far, even with all its flaws, it has been a failure to attract coverage. The Oval Office brags about 8 million having signed up, but fails to note that far fewer have gone on to purchase coverage. That’s like reserving a seat in the stadium but not showing up for the ballgame.

Conservatives have warned that Obamacare would be expensive, lead to lost hours and pay for workers and generally fail to live up to its promises. Such concerns were dismissed by liberals.

Since 2010, the critics have largely been proven right. Obamacare threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss of hours and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage.

One of President Obama’s greatest political challenges has been hiding the fact that Obamacare is largely financed by siphoning huge sums of money out of Medicare, mainly by cutting Medicare Advantage. Talk about smoke and mirrors.

The CBO projects that, over the next decade, about $1 trillion that would otherwise have been spent on Medicare will be rerouted to Obamacare. That represents more than 10 percent of Medicare’s entire projected funding, which helps explain why Medicare’s Office of the Actuary has projected that by 2020 Medicare will reimburse doctors and other health care providers at lower rates than Medicaid.

Imagine if Obama had pitched Obamacare by saying, “Folks, we’re going to pass health reform, and to pay for it we’re going to divert more than 10 percent of the money that’s projected to be spent on Medicare.”

That pitch would have made Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech look like a triumph of political rhetoric. But, as the CBO notes, that’s exactly what Obamacare will do.

All of this points to the need to repeal this monstrosity. And it points to the need to advance a well-conceived conservative alternative to pave the way to full repeal.

But if we are able to repeal it, we should not stop there, because the status quo is a status no.

Health care is much different than in the days when general practitioners made house calls. People today are living longer — 10 years longer than life expectancy in the 1950s — and this is largely a result of modern medicine.

Today’s medical care is a cross between highly educated specialists and sophisticated equipment that costs millions and has an obsolescence shorter than a mobile home. Today’s medical personnel are a cross between engineers and nuclear physicists. Hospitals treat with equipment costing in the millions.

Today’s medical treatment is effective, but far from cheap. Who is going to pay the bill? Stop and think about it. Very few of us would not be medically indigent if we did not have some third party pick up the bill.

I believe in the free enterprise system. If one studies longer, works harder, takes more risk, invests more money and the like, then he or she should live in a better house, drive a better car and live a better lifestyle. That is the American way.

However, I believe in the compassion of Americans for one another. And I believe that no American should be denied adequate health care based on their economic station in life.

When I served as Jeb Bush’s first Statewide Public Guardian, I saw firsthand what happens to people who don’t have access to care. It is inhumane. It is an embarrassment, and it is happening.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is anything but. It is neither affordable nor does it provide care. But to repeal it and do nothing would be equally reprehensible.

Twenty percent of all Floridians lack access to affordable health care. That is simply unacceptable. Once again, the Florida Legislature has adjourned and ignored the problem.

Socialized medicine is not the answer, but a free-enterprise, driven-managed competition plan is.

Republicans have proposed several plans to replace Obamacare for the past several years, but none can seem to get traction in Washington.

The latest has come not from Washington, but from a state governor, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Jindal is calling his replacement plan “The Freedom and Empowerment Plan: the Prescription for Conservative Consumer-Focused Health Reform.”

It would lower the cost to consumers, something that Obamacare failed to do for most Americans.

If other Republicans pick up on Jindal’s Obamacare replacement plan or similar ones, it just might help some of them win this year’s mid-term elections and win the Senate from the Democrats. That’s my opinion, and I am sticking to it.

John Grant is a political columnist who served 21 years in the Florida Legislature and now practices estate planning law in Tampa. He can be reached at MyOpinion@johngrant.net.

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