As a former staffer in Ronald Reagan’s White House, I fondly remember one of the president’s best-known phrases: “It’s morning again in America.” It was inspirational and hopeful, suggesting the dawning of new opportunities and a better future for all.
Back then, his policies of lower taxes and disciplined spending created an environment for strong business investment and economic growth. Reagan’s “morning” optimism helped build confidence that the next generation would have even better chances than their parents to succeed.
Today, however, Americans face gloomier mornings, ones filled with more anxiety than optimism. The worries felt by American families undoubtedly stem from various sources, but at least one root cause of today’s uncertainty can be traced back to an event that occurred one year ago today: enactment of a controversial healthcare law that is fundamentally changing the way Americans pay for and receive medical care.
Growing fears about the healthcare law contribute to this wall of worry — and with good reason. Healthcare costs and quality care are major concerns for most Americans, particularly if access to the system becomes needed due to illness or accident.
Adding to the distress, the gap between the rhetoric of reform and the reality of the law continues to grow. Even the Kaiser Foundation — an organization sympathetic to the new healthcare law — finds support for the law dropping over the last year.
Rising healthcare premiums, changes to insurance plans, and the risk of losing access to one’s doctor all add to this apprehension.
Yet despite these widely discussed shortcomings, another aspect is far less understood — the new law’s devastating effect on this country’s already crippled fiscal future.
Proponents of these changes to our healthcare system sell the law based on just a few publicly popular insurance reforms — preventing a company from taking away a person’s health insurance when they get sick and mandating they cover kids up to 26 years of age on their parents’ plans.
Yet these changes make up perhaps a dozen pages of the new law. What’s contained in the other 2,800 or so pages?
Congressional Democrats tucked billions of dollars in new spending that could bankrupt states and add trillions to an already dangerous level of federal debt.
Consider this. The new law provides the secretary of Health and Human Services an unlimited tap on the U.S. Treasury to spend unrestricted amounts on grants to states for insurance exchanges to facilitate enrollment in the plan.
It also dramatically increases the number of Americans eligible for Medicaid, a program historically targeted to low-income individuals and families. Under the enlarged plan, federal government spending on Medicaid will increase by $627 billion above current law over the next ten years, according to the latest estimates released last week by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
On top of all that, CBO also estimates the new law will spend another $777 billion to subsidize individuals receiving insurance through the new state-based “exchange” programs.
Taken together, these two elements of the law — not widely discussed or known — will obligate taxpayers to almost $1.5 trillion in new government spending over the next ten years.
All this new spending comes at a time when the government should be tightening its belt. It comes at a time when budget experts warn existing entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on their way to bankruptcy, which is why we should be reforming the programs we have, not creating a new set of mandatory spending programs with money we do not have.
The healthcare law is like offering a daily dose of hot fudge sundaes to someone in need of a diet. We’ve found the Biggest Loser — it’s the American people — if we don’t stop the binge.
The new healthcare law needs to be repealed and replaced with a less costly, more sustainable alternative.
A repeal measure has already passed the House, but the Senate has yet to act. House Republicans will offer a host of smart and creative replacement ideas in the months ahead In the meantime, more Americans need to focus on the ticking fiscal time bomb we call Obamacare.
This is no longer a debate about providing insurance coverage to those who don’t have it. That could be done without bankrupting the country. More citizens need to wake up to the true costs of this law. We won’t have morning in America if the country slumbers and the profligacy imbedded in this reckless new law goes unchallenged.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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