“[We] have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., famously said that about President Barack Obama’s health care reform package. She was right. We are just finding out what was contained within that Obamacare law that Obama signed weeks ago.
Here are five things we’ve learned so far:
One: No sooner had Obamacare passed than the White House discovered that someone goofed. Despite all of Obama’s promises and talking points, Obamacare as passed by Congress does not require insurers to cover children with expensive pre-existing medical conditions.
Immediately, the White House got an assurance from the insurers. After demonizing them for months as callous profiteers on others’ misery (in fact, the entire industry is barely profitable), Obama now tells Americans that they can trust health insurance companies to do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts.
Two: State governments discovered that they are no longer just required to guarantee payment for indigent patients’ care under Medicaid. Obamacare changes Medicaid law so that now states must also guarantee treatment to the poor.
This is a thorny issue: Many doctors refuse to see Medicaid patients because the program doesn’t pay enough for them to break even. (In some states, payments to doctors have been delayed for months or years.)
Some cash-strapped states expect this new definition to spawn court challenges, which will ultimately force them to pay exorbitantly high prices to doctors and hospitals for their existing patients.
Three: Even as Medicaid’s costs increase because of the above, so will the number of Medicaid patients under Obamacare’s coverage provisions. Thanks to the “Cornhusker Kickback” — the special Nebraska provision that was extended to every state in the final version of the bill — the federal taxpayer is on the hook for 90 percent of the new patients’ expenses.
So remember those rosy budget projections about Obamacare reducing the deficit, or at least not costing too much? Forget it.
Four: Douglas Shulman, Commissioner for the Internal Revenue Service, announced this week at the National Press Club that Obamacare means he can take your tax refund from you. Obamacare requires Americans to purchase insurance, but contains no serious enforcement mechanisms.
So, Shulman said, the IRS will collect penalties from those who fail to purchase “qualified” insurance by confiscating the interest-free loans that taxpayers make to the government throughout the year through employment withholding.
Five: The ski-tourism industry suddenly realized that it is endangered by Obamacare. Ski resorts must now provide health care or else pay a fine for each employee who works more than 120 days out of the year — and many of their employees do.
The bill had applied only at the 150-day threshold, until House Democrats changed it in reconciliation. They also cranked up the fine from $750 to $2,000 per employee, in order to pad their budget numbers.
Those are just five things we’ve learned, out of more than 2,000 pages. You can bet we’ll learn a lot more in the seven months leading up to Election Day.
Speaking of which, on Monday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., explained away public opposition to this new health care law, shaped in large part by the special deals he made with reluctant senators last December.
“The loud minority made a lot of noise,” Reid said. “Everybody acknowledges, with rare exception, that what we did with our immediate deliverables was terrific.”
Reid’s state defies the laws of math. Sixty-two percent of Nevadans somehow constitute a “rare exception.” And it looks as though the “loud minority” will send Reid looking for a new insurance plan later this year.
Columnist David Freddoso is the Washington Examiner online opinion editor.