Obamacare: Now it’s getting real.

obama presser 04-30-13

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, May 3, 2013.

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On Tuesday, Apr. 30, President Obama held his first open press conference in more than two months and the usually tame press corps gave the president a harder time than usual. One line of questioning revealed what will likely be a recurring source of heartburn for the president between now and the end of his term.

The president called on NBC’s Chuck Todd who stood up and said that retiring six-term Democratic senator Max Baucus of Montana, who carried much of the water in passing Obamacare, is on record as saying that the implementation of Obamacare is a “train wreck.” Todd asked why Sen. Baucus would say such a thing and how the president would respond.

And thus the reality of Obamcare in its implementation begins to replace the abstraction of Obamacare as it was being forced through Congress on a 100 percent pure party-line vote.

Baucus’s ‘train wreck’ metaphor is apt. There are huge problems with Obamacare that millions of average Americans will begin to feel very acutely and very soon.

Examples include:

  1. A University of Chicago study says that half of all current individual plans do not meet the minimum coverage standards under the Affordable Care Act. That means that individuals covered by such plans will have to go shopping. They will find that the market for Affordable Care Act-compliant coverage will have them paying up to half again more than what they are currently paying.
  2. As we have said in this space previously, not paying the bill isn’t the same as controlling costs. Yet under the Affordable Care Act, that is precisely what happens to Medicare reimbursements. One of the funding mechanisms of the law is the reductions in payments to doctors, hospitals and other providers. According to the Medicare program’s own actuary, as many as 15 percent of current providers will stop taking Medicare patients as a result. Seniors that depend on Medicare will simply have to wait to see the doctor.
  3. Millions of small businesses are looking for every way possible to get below the 50 employee threshold at which Obamacare mandates kick in. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are specifically limiting growth plans so as to avoid exceeding that threshold. Since the law’s passage in 2010, this provision of Obamacare has been a significant (but by no means exclusive) factor in sluggish job growth.
  4. At the end of all of this, according to the Congressional Budget Office, an estimated 30 million people will remain without health insurance – the very problem that Obamacare first set out to fix.

Democrats in both the House and the Senate are beginning to hear from constituents and what they are hearing is not, ‘Thank you for voting for Obamacare.’ This is a problem for Democrats, particularly those elected from districts and states that went for Romney in 2012. Unlike any other piece of major legislation in American history, the Democrats own Obamacare 100 percent. There is not a single Republican vulnerable to voter reprisal for helping enact the Affordable Care Act. To the extent that Americans are unhappy with Obamacare, Democrats shoulder all of the blame.

So keenly aware of this fact is Senator Max Baucus that rather than face voters in his state of Montana that went decisively for Romney in 2012, he is retiring at the end of his term in 2014.

Several other senators find themselves in similarly uncomfortable positions.

The enactment of Obamacare is the single biggest accomplishment of the Obama administration. That accomplishment is looking more and more like a first term victory that will haunt the president relentlessly in his second term.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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