In my January 2 Wall Street Journal piece I wrote about several remarkable individuals we lost in 2013. When remembering the valiant Medal of Honor recipients who passed last year, there was one who was unintentionally omitted from our list. In addition to Sgt. John Hawk, Master Sgt. Nicholas Oresko, Cpl. Rodolfo Hernandez, and Col. George “Bud” Day, Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Vernon McGarity of Tennessee died on May 21, 2013.
Sgt. McGarity was wounded in an artillery assault as the Battle of the Bulge began in December 1944, but determined to help his men, he charged back to his team instead of having a medical evaluation. Despite heavy fire and the bitter winter conditions, Sgt. McGarity rescued at least two of his fellow soldiers, immobilized the lead German tank assaulting their position, moved toward the enemy to retrieve more ammunition, and held position with his men until they had depleted their last rounds. Our country is forever grateful and ever stronger for having men and women with the caliber and bravery of heroes like these.
Veteran's Day is a chance for us to honor and express our gratitude to the brave men and women who have selflessly served and still serve our country. Thank you for keeping us safe and protecting our freedom. Be sure to thank a veteran today. Here are a few suggestions if you're looking to help groups that support our nation's heroes:
We are just days away from the October 1 deadline when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, but President Barack Obama's signature law is nowhere near ready for primetime. While Mr. Obama travels the country demonizing his political opponents and repeating the same tired lies about the law, Republicans are hard at work on legislation to delay the law and replace it with responsible reforms.
Several weeks ago I wrote about the many ideas Republicans have for health care reform. Here are some of the latest efforts gathering momentum and support:
1. Delay Obamacare: Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R, TN-07) has introduced legislation in the House (H.R. 2809), and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has introduced companion legislation (S. 1490) in the Senate to delay all provisions of Obamacare set to go into effect in 2014. These include the individual mandate, employer mandate, and Obamacare "exchanges," to name a few.
For more information, recommend reading this joint op-ed from Congressman Blackburn and Senator Flake: Health Care Law Must Be Delayed
2. Replace Obamacare: While stopping the harmful provisions of Obamacare is essential, Republicans know there needs to be a better set of reforms ready to put in its place. That is why Congressmen Steve Scalise (R, LA-01) and Dr. Phil Roe (R, TN-01) unveiled the Republican Study Committee's alternative plan, the American Health Care Reform Act. To name just a few of the provisions, this bill allows Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, enables small businesses to pool together to get the same buying power as large companies, reforms medical malpractice, provides tax reform to allow families and individuals to deduct health care costs like large businesses, and safeguards individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Read more about the American Health Care Reform Act here.
President Obama would love nothing more than Republicans’ providing him a bully pulpit and big stick with which he can beat them daily through the 2014 midterm elections. That’s what the Republicans would give Mr. Obama if they shut down the government by trying to defund ObamaCare in the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government after October 1.
That’s because the Continuing Resolution only affects discretionary spending. Virtually all of ObamaCare costs are mandatory spending, unaffected by what’s in the CR. Defunding ObamaCare in the CR would not affect spending for the expansion of Medicaid, which is almost half of ObamaCare’s cost. Nor would it affect the Exchanges – the subsidies for insurance coverage – that’s also mandatory spending.
In fact, as little as 1% or 2% of ObamaCare’s outlays for the first ten years would be affected by adding to the CR a provision defunding ObamaCare.
This could translate into significantly less than $10 billion in discretionary spending cuts for FY14 and the Obama administration could find some of that money in this year’s budget or in funds they can move around or simply go without.
Mr. Obama would love for the GOP to threaten a shutdown over $10 billion in ObamaCare funding, while ObamaCare continues to get over $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Senator Tom Coburn is absolutely right to say such a strategy could lose the House for the GOP.
Remember, when Republicans shut down the government in 1995, they had funded half the fiscal year’s budget including all of defense and still the GOP lost badly in the court of public opinion.
This time, if no CR is passed by September 30 of this year, nothing has been funded. That means there's zero for defense. So the troops won’t get paid…starting the first week of October. And other essential services will stop because there won’t be any money at all, unlike 1995.
Rather than risking a shutdown of the government over less than $10 billion, Republicans should go on the offense, highlighting the president’s threat to shut down the government unless he gets $91 billion more in new spending in the CR. Republicans are for holding the line on spending; Mr. Obama wants more.
ObamaCare is a train wreck. Republicans’ warnings about the law are now coming true. Premiums are going up; people are losing their health plans; companies are cutting their employees’ hours, costs are far more than estimated and hence the debt bigger that thought as well.
The GOP has better ground fighting against ObamaCare whose problems will grow as implementation gets underway. House Republicans can use their power of oversight to keep drawing attention to the law’s many shortcomings. They can attempt to repeal parts of ObamaCare or seriously alter some of its provisions, as the House GOP did when it pressed the issue of delaying the individual mandate when the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate.
The GOP must also offer alternatives. A Crossroads GPS poll from last month showed strong backing for conservative reforms that reduce costs. For example, 81% support letting families save more tax-free for out-of-pocket health expenses, 82% are in favor of allowing individuals to purchase health insurance with pretax dollars, and 78% back the sale of insurance across state lines.
ObamaCare’s unpopularity suggests that Republicans can win on health care—but must resist a game of chicken with the president.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, July 26, 2013.
On May 10, days before the Treasury Inspector General released his report acknowledging the political profiling at the Internal Revenue Service, Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, told a meeting of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the Tax Section of American Bar Association that “between 2010 and 2012, we started seeing a very big uptick in the number of 501(c)(4) applications we were receiving.” IRS employees “centralized work” on these applications “for efficiency and consistency.”
It just so happened the groups in question were Tea Party and conservative groups.
Now that the Inspector General has confirmed in its May 14 report this “centralization” was based on “inappropriate criteria,” White House advocates continue to use the shoddy justification that the political targeting was all a result of well-intentioned efforts by the IRS to cope with a “remarkable influx of applications” from 501(c)(4)s ” (David Plouffe, 6/2/13), as the IRS was “flooded with applications” (David Axelrod, 6/2/13).
Trouble is, the Internal Revenue Services’ own records show the number of applications for tax-exempt status as either a 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(3) have not been growing, but declining.The IRS' own records show that the number of applications for tax-exempt status as either a 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(3) have not been growing, but declining.
Below are the numbers for the “Closures of Applications for Tax-Exempt Status, by Organization Type and Internal Revenue Code Section” for Fiscal Years 1990 to 2012 (the latest fiscal year for which the IRS provides such data).
Contrary to the impression fostered by Team Obama and Ms. Lerner, the combined total for tax-exempt applications closed by the IRS for both (c)(4) and (c)(3) groups peaked at 87,638 in FY 2007 and had declined 38% by FY 2012, when the IRS closed 54,522 tax-exempt applications of which 2,774 were for 501(c)(4) status and 51,748 for 501(c)(3) status.
The number of 501(c)(4) applications closed did hit 2,774 in FY 2012, up from FY 2011 and FY 2010. But in FY 2010 when the IRS started targeting Tea Party and conservative groups, the number of application closures had fallen 9% to 1,741 from the previous fiscal year’s total of 1,922.
Since many Tea Party and conservative groups applied for 501(c)(3) status, it’s also interesting to note that those applications dropped from 70,624 in FY 2009 to 59,945 in FY 2010, a drop of 15%.
So where is the “remarkable influx of applications” that left the IRS “flooded” in 2010?
Where is the “very big uptick” that led someone in the IRS to order the targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups as an “efficiency measure?”
Team Obama shows remarkable message coordination and discipline, but when everyone is spouting the same prevarications, it undermines the credibility of the administration’s defense and all involved in delivering it.
How can they expect us to believe them on anything else?
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.
In his speech at the National Defense University Thursday, President Obama said, “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law.”
Maybe it’s time for the president to have a heart-to-heart with his attorney general, Eric Holder.
NBC News is reporting that Mr. Holder “signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a ‘possible co-conspirator’ in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails,” per NBC conversations with a law enforcement official.
In the case of the government’s subpoena for the phone records of as many as 100 Associated Press editors and writers, Mr. Holder left the decision for a deputy to make after he recused himself.
But if NBC News is right, then the attorney general himself green-lighted the FBI to seek a subpoena for Mr. Rosen’s private emails in the spring of 2010.
If true, then Mr. Holder has a difficulty. He might have recently misled Congress in a profound way. Some might even say he lied.
On May 15, before the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) asked the attorney general, “We also have an old law that would allow for prosecution of anyone who published the classified information, isn’t that correct?”
In the course of a rambling answer, Mr. Holder said, “You've got a long way to go to try to prosecute people—the press for the publication of that material. This has...not fared well in American history."
So far, so good: Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder apparently agree. "The focus should be on those people who break their oath and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information. That should not be the focus...of these investigations," the attorney general went on to say.
But Mr. Holder also proclaimed, "With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy."
But that’s exactly what the government was trying to do in the case of James Rosen, then a Fox News reporter on the State Department beat, now Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent.
The FBI sought Mr. Rosen’s phone records and private emails because they alleged there was “probable cause to believe” Mr. Rosen was a “co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor…committing the criminal offense…”
If NBC is right and Mr. Holder approved going after Mr. Rosen, then the attorney general has a lot of explaining to do to Congress. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte might well want to ask Mr. Holder to appear again and explain why he said targeting journalists was “not something I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy” after he had heard of it, had been involved in it, and had signed off on it as a matter of policy.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, May 24, 2013.
When it dumped 100 emails related to the Benghazi talking points Wednesday night, the Obama White House showed it hasn’t been telling the truth.
These talking points were not the sole product of the intelligence community, but were in fact edited by State Department officials and White House officials and then decided upon at a White House meeting.
After reading these emails, it’s clear the administration’s principal concern behind the edits was to protect itself from public and Congressional criticism, not to get out the facts of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans died.Laying out the facts about the Benghazi attacks was a task better left to substantive policymakers, not spin merchants.
But the emails also leave unanswered important questions, while offering tantalizing clues and suggestions.
First, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was pushing to water down the CIA-drafted talking points. But she’s not the person in charge at State.
At 9:24 PM Friday, September 14, she complained that the edits made so far “don't resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership. They are consulting with NSS.” NSS could stand for National Security Staff, i.e., the White House.
So who above Ms. Nuland at the State Department was talking to whom at the White House? And did these unnamed parties agree on the final edits that were laid out at a National Security Council Deputies meeting at the White House on the morning of September 15?
Second, we still don’t know who is responsible for cooking up the story offered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Sunday morning, September 16, namely that an anti-Muslim video was the cause of the attack on the Consulate. The emails may yield a possible clue.
There's a series of emails starting Saturday afternoon and going into the evening between an unnamed person at the U.S. mission to the U.N. and National Security Council communications chief Ben Rhodes and NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor about the preparation for Ms. Rice for the Sunday morning talk programs. Could the unnamed USUN staffer be Erin Pelton, the spokesperson for the mission?
Ms. Nuland has already told the press she had nothing to do with prepping Ms. Rice.
Jacob Sullivan, then at the State Department, and now Vice President Joe Biden's foreign policy advisor, says he, too, had nothing to do with preparing Ms. Rice.
But Saturday afternoon and evening, this unnamed USUN staffer told two White House staffers that they needed to get settled on Ms. Rice’s appearances the next morning.
Does that mean the USUN staffer, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor were responsible for cooking up the absurd and misleading storyline that an anti-Muslim video caused the death of four Americans when it was clear this was a terrorist assault carried out by a group with ties to Al Qaeda?
One final observation: when the task at hand was explaining what happened at Benghazi, it is amazing that so much of the email traffic was between at least seven communications people in six agencies.
With all due respect to communications people, laying out the facts about the Benghazi attacks was a task better left to substantive policymakers, not spin merchants whose principal concern might have been the election less than two months off.
There’s even a summary of a secure video conference conducted Friday with a number of national security, intelligence, and counter-terrorism officials during which Mike Morell, the deputy director of the CIA, offered to sit down with Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor to work out the talking points.
When the deputy CIA director is working on talking points with communications people three layers down in the White House, it shows the power of the spin patrol within the West Wing and gives the appearance that the White House is the ultimate shot caller on the talking points.
Since this is contrary to everything the Obama administration has said previously, these spin merchants have been forced to work overtime recently.The pressure is not likely to end soon, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, May 17, 2013.
President Obama may think the dispute over his handling of Benghazi is a “sideshow,” but his remarks Monday at the joint press briefing with British Prime Minister Cameron are evidence that his administration misled the American people and is trying to do so even today.
For example, in just one paragraph consisting of two sentences, Mr. Obama contradicted himself twice. Mid-way through one his lengthy non-answer, the president said:
“Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing. And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.”
Let’s unpack these two sentences. First, Mr. Obama claims that his briefing from the CIA put the blame for the Benghazi attack on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, even though we know that (a) the video had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi and (b) no mention of the videos appeared in any version of the talking points.
The president is getting deeper into trouble. He must come clean by revealing who directed the CIA to remove the language about terrorismSo precisely who pinned the blame for the attacks on the video? And will the president reveal his intelligence briefings to an investigative committee to prove that the final talking points tracked what the intelligence community was telling him?
In addition, if the president’s press conference statement is true – that he and his top aides were saying right after Benghazi that these were Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks – then why did a September 20, 2012 New York Times story begin this way?
“The White House is now calling the assault on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, a ‘terrorist attack.’”
“It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. ‘Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials.’
“Until now, White House officials have not used that language in describing the assault.”
And why were the following (accurate) phrases excised from the CIA’s original draft of the talking points:
…as to who is responsible for the violence, although the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals. That being said, there are indications that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.
The Agency has produced numerous pieces of the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. Since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador's convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has [sic] previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks
It certainly appears as if on Saturday, September 15, someone in the administration told the Deputy Director of the CIA to delete these words from the draft talking points.
We don’t yet know who this was, but we need to find out. And you can bet that individual was not a press aide like the State Department press spokeswoman or the communication guy at the National Security Council.
It is simply bizarre for Mr. Obama to suggest the CIA would chuck its early, accurate findings and instead (falsely) inform him that the Benghazi attack was a simple spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video.
Second, Mr. Obama says after Ambassador Rice made the round of five Sunday morning talk programs to sell the blame-it-on-the-video line, that he, the commander-in-chief, sent Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center “up to Capitol Hill…specifically” to say “it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.”
If that were in fact the case, then why was Ms. Rice, the most visible and prominent administration spokesperson on this matter, telling the American people something utterly at odds with what Mr. Olsen was telling members of Congress?
As he is prone to do, Mr. Obama constantly misstated the facts Monday. For example, he said “congressional committees” had “reviewed” administration emails about the evolution of the talking points “several months ago” and “concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used.”
That’s certainly not what we heard last week. Just when did which congressional committee clear the administration on preparation of the talking points?
The president is getting deeper into trouble. He must come clean by revealing who directed the CIA to remove the language about terrorism and who authorized that person or persons to so direct the CIA.
He must disclose who prepared Susan Rice for the Sunday morning talk programs and directed her to say something that they knew at the time was untrue. And the president must explain to us, fully and in detail, why he was still wrongly blaming the attacks on the YouTube video weeks after they had taken place. Because the president’s strategy of a modified limited hangout won’t work any longer.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.
ABC New’s Jonathan Karl and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard have both produced some excellent new reporting on the Benghazi scandal.
Mr. Karl has uncovered emails showing how talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice during her appearances on five Sunday morning talk shows were profoundly misleading.
And in an upcoming Weekly Standard piece, Mr. Hayes reports on the concern inside the CIA, starting with Director David Petraeus, over the efforts to weaken the Agency’s proposed language.
These journalists have done much to advance our understanding of what happened during and after the attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, but there still remain critical, unanswered questions.
For example, on whose behalf were State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes – both of whom played key roles in altering the Benghazi talking points – acting when they objected to the CIA’s language characterizing Benghazi as a terrorist incident?
It’s unlikely that the decision to gut the CIA-draft by expunging any reference to terrorism or possible Al Qaeda links was done by Ms. Nuland or Mr. Rhodes, both communications people. It’s far more likely that they were doing the bidding of people further up the chain of command at the State Department and the White House.
Was Ms. Nuland getting orders from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, either directly or through her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills? Was Mr. Rhodes being told by White House Senior Advisors David Plouffe or Valerie Jarrett to strike any embarrassing reference to Islamic extremists?
For the record, according to Mr. Hayes’ earlier reporting, here’s what the participants of that Saturday morning White House meeting agreed upon:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated.
The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. government is working with Libyan authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Note what’s missing: Any reference to the anti-Muslim YouTube video. Yet Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, repeatedly blamed the YouTube video during her Sunday morning talk show appearances.
So who – after the White House meeting on Saturday, September 15 occurred – insisted on this further revision to the talking points and directed Ms. Rice to scapegoat the video? It’s reasonable to assume that people higher-up in the State Department and White House did so. Then the question is, why?
Ms. Nuland has publicly distanced herself from the final talking points and Ms. Rice’s appearances, making clear she wasn’t at the Saturday morning meeting and didn’t prepare Ms. Rice for the Sunday talk programs, according to Mr. Karl.
Jake Sullivan, then deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s director of policy planning, has similarly been distanced from any preparation work with Ms. Rice. His name appears in emails Mr. Hayes reports on.
That still leaves lots of people in the West Wing and the Secretary’s suite at State to be heard from.We get a hint of the Administration’s mindset from a new tweet from one of President Obama’s closest confidants, David Axelrod, who tweets:
“@DavidAxelrod: Can't help but feeling that If Ken Salazar were the front runner for '16, the House GOP be holding hearings on the BP oil spill.”
Team Obama wants to make this all about partisan politics. The hope is to distract Americans from what really matters: who in the Obama administration is responsible for presenting the American people an utterly false account of what happened in Benghazi despite having known the truth within hours after the attacks?
What did Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton know, when did they know it, and did they direct Ms. Rice directly or indirectly to mislead the American public two months before a presidential election rather than admit Benghazi was a terrorist attack?
Members of Congress have plenty of time to discover the truth. They should use their subpoena power to do just that. Because this story matters.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, May 10, 2013.
At his impromptu news conference last Tuesday, President Obama demonstrated he is either so detached he doesn’t know what’s happened as the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is being implemented or that he knows but intends to brazen his way through an emerging policy debacle. Whichever it is, it’s likely to be a political disaster for the president and his party.
Saying that while there were big changes for those now uninsured, it was a different situation “for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance,” Mr. Obama said. The only impact for them, he assured us, is that “their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”
Yes they do.
Start with their premiums. Rather than declining by $2,500 per family of four by the end of 2010 as Mr. Obama pledged, average family premiums have risen from a pre-ObamaCare cost of $13,375 in 2009 to $15,745 last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Employer Health Benefits Summary.
That’s a $2,375 or 18% increase, not the $2,500 or 19% decrease Mr. Obama promised.
Workers are picking up most of that increase as employers grapple with rising insurance costs by requiring bigger co-pays and deductibles.
Premiums are rising fast for precisely the reason ObamaCare critics predicted: the health care act includes so many mandates and requirements that make insurance much more costly.
Premium sticker shock is even worse for those who aren’t covered by a group or company policy. There has been an “average increase of roughly 50% in premiums for some in the individual market for the same coverage,” according to last year’s “Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2013” report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.
Premiums will go up even more and faster for younger families because of the perverse provision of ObamaCare called “community rating.” This causes younger, healthier policyholders to pay higher prices than they would otherwise in order to subsidize the premiums of older, less health policyholders.
Then there was Mr. Obama’s 2009 pledge that he’d never raise taxes on any family making less than $250,000 a year. But the Affordable Care Act includes $525 billion in new taxes during its first decade as law, with ever-higher taxes in the decades ahead. Among these are new levies on medical devices, drug companies, hospitals and providers and insurance policies.
Medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, health care companies and insurance companies will not pay these taxes.
As Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf told a Senate hearing, these companies will simply pass the taxes onto their customers.
In other words, sick people needing a medical device, a drug, a hospital stay, a doctor’s care or even the backstop of an insurance policy will pay the $525 billion in new taxes through higher prices for those goods and services.
Last time I looked, there were plenty of sick people who made less than $250,000 a year. And since these taxes are phased in, the tab will get bigger and bigger in the “out” years.
ObamaCare even raises revenue from those in college on a student loan. The Affordable Care Act nationalized student loans issued with a federal guarantee. Now students can only get these loans from the government, not private lenders.
College students are being hit again because the federal government took over the student-loan business in 2010, eliminating the competition. This allows the Education Department to borrow money from Treasury at an interest rate of 2.8% and lend it to college students at a rate of 6.8%. A portion of the profits from overcharging students will be used to help pay for ObamaCare. Mr. Obama also said in 2010 that he didn’t “want a plan that interferes with the relationship between a family and their doctor. So we’re going to preserve that.”
But a massive survey of 14,000 doctors by the Physician’s Foundation, conducted in 2010, said that 40% of physicians said they would drop out of patient care in the next one to three years, either by retiring, seeking a non-clinical job within health care, or by seeking a non-healthcare related job. The majority of physicians (59%) said health reform will cause them to spend less time with patients, most of them saying Medicaid and Medicare patients would be most affected.
Who can blame the doctors? The over 150 new federal commissions, bureaus, agencies, and panels — and the new rules they are charged with crafting to govern every minute action by physicians, nurses and other care givers — are already causing many health professions to contemplate doing something else or retiring early.
But perhaps the worst impact on American families are coping with all of this springs from Mr. Obama’s pledge that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
With $130 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, the 13 million seniors, or roughly 25% of the total, who use Medicare Advantage are seeing their plans dramatically altered or even cancelled.
But seniors aren’t the only ones impacted by Mr. Obama’s false promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” More Americans are beginning to understand that ObamaCare will have grave implications for their families and their health coverage.
Insurance is getting more expensive for small businesses to their employees. When insurance coverage gets too expensive, businesses can dump their employees into a government-run pool called an “exchange” and pay a $2,000 fine for each employee after the first 30 workers.
Since most companies pay as much as 80% of the premium costs for their workers, ObamaCare has a perverse incentive for them to dump coverage and drop their workers into the exchange where taxpayers pick up most of the cost.
Companies can also avoid providing insurance by limiting non-salaried employees’ hours to 30 or less a week. Then they escape any penalty for failing to provide coverage.
Already, restaurants, fast food joints, hotels and others in the hospitality sector are moving to limit non-salaried workers to 30 hours or less a week.
This will cause real hardship. Many servers, hotel workers, or fast food employees need to 34 or 35 hours a week plus tips just to make ends meet. They are hearing they’ll get 30 hours and no more from their current employer and have to find the other hours they need somewhere else. Not an easy task in today’s economy.
This trend is likely to affect some retail and other service industries as well. I recently talked with an executive in the auto parts industry who says franchise owners are moving in this direction.
On a more personal note, a family friend recently lost his sales job despite being the leading performer two years running for his company. He’s being replaced by a 30-hour a week non-salaried employee.
Last year, the annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care found that more than two in five employers are at least somewhat likely to direct part-time and temporary workers into exchanges.
For these workers and their families, it doesn’t matter if they like their health care plans. They won’t be able to keep them. And that has consequences for ObamaCare’s price tag.
When the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 24 million Americans would get coverage through the exchange, 21 million of them previous uninsured and 3 million who would lose their employer provided coverage.
In its March 18, 2010 score the CBO said the cost for this would be $466 billion, offset by $52 billion in employer penalty payments, with the exchange started in 2014 and being fully operational by 2016. Ninety-five percent of the outlays for the exchange would be paid in the last four years of ObamaCare’s first decade, 2016 to 2019.
This February, the Congressional Budget Office revised its estimates. Now it believes 8 million Americans, not its original estimate of 3 million, will lose their employers provided coverage. That would mean a total of 29 million people, not 24 million, would be covered through the exchange. That would point to the real cost of the exchange being about 17% higher than originally forecast.
The CBO also issued a new projection for the cost of the exchange between 2014 and 2023. This would include the cost for the two years spent phasing in the exchange (2014 and 2015) and the cost for eight years of their operation. That number is now $949 billion.
And the CBO’s new estimate is on the low side.
The actuary’s office at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services says 14 million Americans will lose their employers provided coverage, raising to 35 million the total number who would be covered through the exchange. That would suggest costs being roughly 46% higher than projected.
The Lewin Group, a respected healthcare policy research and management-consulting firm, estimates 17.2 million Americans will lose employer provided insurance so that 38.2 million are covered through the exchange. If the Lewin Group is correct and those in the exchanges number 38.2 million, then ObamaCare’s tab is approximately 59% more than the original estimate.
And economists at the American Action Forum (AAF) suggest 35 million will lose employers provided coverage, putting 56 million into the exchange. If AAF’s estimate of 56 million is accurate, then the cost of ObamaCare’s exchange could be as much as 133% of CBO’s estimate, more than twice the cost Mr. Obama told Americans it would be.
But the Affordable Care Act’s price tag could be even larger. A survey by McKinsey & Company suggests 30% of employers will stop offering health insurance coverage.
Around 61% of firms offer insurance plans per Kaiser’s 2012 Employer Health Benefit report with roughly 170 million Americans having heath insurance tied to their jobs, according to the latest U.S. Census data.
So a 30% decrease in employer provided insurance would mean as many as 53 million lose coverage, bringing the total in the exchange to 71 million. You work the math.
Whatever the final price tag for the exchange, virtually all of the new cost will be deficit financed. It’s hard to see much of the cost being covered by the $2,000 a person fine since it appears most of the workers dumped into the exchange will come from small businesses or workers who are now part-time, non-salaried employees.
The bottom line, then, is that huge problems related to ObamaCare are emerging. Companies – especially small businesses -- are holding back hiring in order to avoid the rising costs of providing health insurance that are being imposed by ObamaCare.
Employers are trying to find ways to limit the hours of non-salaried workers to 30 hours or less a week to avoid ObamaCare’s requirements altogether. And the administration’s estimate of how many people will receive taxpayer subsidized insurance coverage through the exchange may be terribly low, grossly understating ObamaCare’s cost. All these trends are likely to be accelerating as the November 2014 midterm elections approach.
During his press conference last week the president said, “even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps.”
The problem is that the president constructed an unworkable plan and he’s implementing it incompetently. The result is not “glitches and bumps;” it’s “sinkholes and craters.” And the result is that ObamaCare will become even greater political deadweight for the president and his party.
No wonder Democrats from Senator Max Baucus to liberal favorites like Elizabeth Colbert Busch are running from what Mr. Baucus calls an impending “train wreck.” And there’s not a thing in the world they can do to avoid it.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Monday, May 6, 2013.