Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Expect buyer's remorse from health-care 'reform'




OVER the past year, Congress has conducted an extensive debate on health care. No one will argue that we do not need real reform, and I was proud to support meaningful alternatives that unfortunately never received hearings or discussion in the House.

I believe the legislative process used to pass the health-care "reform" package was flawed. Now that President Obama has signed it into law, it is time to review what lies ahead for our nation's health-care system.

The package's total estimated cost of $2.3 trillion includes more than $500 billion in tax hikes and fees. Most of these hikes will come in the form of increases in payroll and unearned-income taxes.

These tax increases, levied during one of the most trying times in history for our nation's economy, will delay our recovery and slow long-term growth. Over the next seven years, Americans also will see indirect taxes on medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other elements of their health-insurance plans.

The new law mandates that employers provide health insurance to their workers, pay a penalty for not offering insurance that the government deems sufficient, or both. Small businesses will be especially hard hit.

The law calls for businesses with fewer than 25 employees to get a credit for providing health insurance. But keep in mind that the "full" credit for businesses with 10 employees or fewer is just 50 percent of their total costs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 12 percent of small businesses nationwide will get the full or partial credit. And it will be eliminated in 2016, just two years after the law takes full effect. That will leave small businesses worse off than they were before the law was enacted.

Failure to comply with the rules written to enforce the health-care law will result in civil or criminal penalties against individuals and employers, enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. The CBO predicts that costs associated with the employer mandate will be shifted directly to workers, in lower wages and reduced or eliminated jobs and hours.

Senior citizens will see direct and devastating effects from the new law, which includes $529 billion in cuts to Medicare. These cuts will finance an expansion of Medicaid and a new, federally funded entitlement program - robbing Peter to pay Paul.

In addition to these cuts, the Medicare Advantage program will be reduced by $120 billion, causing an estimated one-third decline in enrollment that will affect 11 million seniors.

The new law allows federal funding of abortions, a break from the policy of the Hyde Amendment enacted in 1976. Many lawmakers who consider themselves "pro-life" voted for this legislation after the President promised to sign an executive order that would correct the problem of abortion funding.

But an executive order cannot change federal law, as other members of Congress have admitted. It can be retracted just as easily because it does not have the full force of law.

Americans, including my constituents, have overwhelmingly indicated that they do not want the government to pay for abortions. But that is exactly what this legislation will do.

Our nation's economy is in no condition to take on $2.3 trillion more in costs. History shows that when the federal government enacts entitlement programs, their costs are almost always underestimated.

When Medicare was enacted in 1967, supporters estimated it would cost $12 billion by 1990. Actual Medicare spending in 1990 was $111 billion, more than nine times the original projection. Some research studies suggest that Medicare could go broke by 2017 and that our other large entitlement program, Social Security, could be in the red by 2016.

America faces $76 trillion in unfunded liabilities by some estimates, along with a national debt of more than $12 trillion and trillion-dollar deficits projected for upcoming years. We simply cannot afford this health-care "reform."

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) represents Ohio's 5th U.S. House District.

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