A week ago we took on the responsibility of a puppy, Teddy (after Ted Williams), a small one, but nonetheless a barking, chewing, licking, eating, jumping and enthusiastic one with all the requisite normal bodily functions. At the moment he is (as one wag jibed) like large government: insatiable appetite on one end and unrestrained profligacy on the other. Teddy has a chew toy, an increasingly grimy weasel with a noise maker at each end; we affectionately named the chew toy Barack. Barack is a safe substitute for our shoes, rugs and furniture, but thread by thread he is coming apart, much like the rapidly unraveling ObamaCare bill that consumed the attention of an administration for two and a half years while the economy swirled around the basin.
Almost 2,700 pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (ACA), which almost no one read before they voted on, consists of over 450 provisions that even the former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, famously said we would have to pass to know what was in it. And they did pass it. Thread by thread it is falling apart. With a return to fiscal sanity and one more election, with a bit of luck it will justifiably disappear into the trashcan of history along with other abysmal legislation like Smoot-Hawley tariffs and Fugitive Slave laws.
The first loose threads were in multiple litigations filed by many states and some private parties challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate. To overly simplify, the suits state that Congress overstepped its authority under the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce clause by compelling individuals and families to purchase health insurance. These challenges are not frivolous and are being pursued with great vigor by some very talented Attorneys General. Five district courts filed decisions to date, and all are under appeal to various Federal Circuit Courts. Three by Democrat appointed judges found the ACA constitutional; two Republican appointed judges found it unconstitutional. One of these found it severable (just the individual mandate would be struck down), and one found it unconstitutional and not severable (the whole bill would fall if upheld). Because of the profound implications to our economy and future, these appeals will be fast tracked and wind their way to the Supreme Court before the next election. This seemingly dry and arcane subject matter is of urgent importance to every family in America.
A second weakened thread you’ve probably seen on television – the American Medical Association ads with the older person desperately clinging to a large bunch of balloons high in the air as they burst one by one. If the cuts proposed in the ACA bill are put into effect, physicians and health facilities will not be able to afford to treat Medicare patients at below their costs and won’t accept new ones. This is the focus of the AMA advertising. The issue is just one of the transparent deceptions of the ACA. When legislation has a budget impact, it is ‘scored’ by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is constrained by their charter to calculate the cost of a bill exactly by the provisions of the bill as presented, irrespective of realistic expectation or outright false assumptions. In this case, the bill pretends to cut $500 billion in future Medicare costs for the elderly by savaging physician and hospital fees with a government panel. Of course, the cynical expectation was that these cuts were never going to be implemented. The cuts were needed to keep the CBO scoring of the bill’s cost down. Because they will not be put into effect, this will add half a trillion to the deficit built into the bill. Unsustainable is the cliché and the reality.
A third thread was completely pulled loose on last Friday. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, conceded that the CLASS program of the ACA bill for long-term health care is impossibly costly. The Democrat’s hopes were that they could get it off the ground and turn it into another deficit entitlement program by sliding it into the bill. They claimed to cut costs by $70 billion, another fabrication for the CBO and utterly, mockingly false. Turns out only sick people want to sign up, and to fund the bill’s expectations would have cost each person who wanted to sign up about $3,000 a month. Oops. To make this even marginally viable, they would need to sign up 230,000,000 of us at a cost of $200 to $300 a month. To be even marginally viable, CLASS would have had to have been mandatory for all, and the required number exceeds the entire working population. Oops. Fortunately, retired NH Senator Judd Gregg (R) managed to insert a provision into the CLASS provisions of the bill that required actuarial proof that the long-term care section would be self funding for 75 years before enactment. Since it would bankrupt in about 15 minutes, it didn’t clear the hurdle.
3 provisions down, 447 to go.
Chances seem to be improving weekly that this dog’s breakfast will evaporate, and the only accomplishment of the first 2 ½ years of the Obama administration will be exposed as the incompetent circus most knew it was.
There is some good news in all of this for the mainstream media Obama cheering section: with the coming of Teddy and puppy paper training, we at last have a good reason to occasionally buy an issue of the New York Times or the Boston Globe.