June 22, 2018
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Right and wrong on ObamaCare

By Jonathan McKane, Special to the BDN

Nancy Pelosi was right.

In March of 2010 the Democratic Speaker of the House said, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” She was referring to the now infamous Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Only a privileged few had a clue what was in this massive bill then and the rest of us are still finding out. The picture emerging is not a pretty one.

The ACA, which was pushed through by Democrats on party-line votes and signed by President Obama, is a free-fall swan dive into a sea of new bureaucracies for our health care system. The goal — a good one — was for more people to be able to purchase health insurance. The result, however, will be more people on government health care, more expensive private insurance and much higher taxes.

For Maine in particular, the future under the ACA looks bleak. A recent actuarial study commissioned by our own Bureau of Insurance determined that, due to the ACA, the Maine individual insurance market should expect to see an average increase of more than 38 percent and increases in the small group market, 8 percent. These amounts will be less, however, after subsidies.

But the subsidies will have to be paid for, and by the usual methods — taxes and borrowing.

During the ObamaCare debates we were told that the estimated cost for the program over the next ten years was $940 billion dollars. Just last week, however, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office nearly doubled that figure to $1.74 trillion — an almost incomprehensible number, especially for a program with about as much likelihood of success as our own Dirigo Health experiment had.

Also, starting next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine if critical parts of ObamaCare are unconstitutional.

But there’s more. A major part of the ACA is health care “exchanges.” These are complicated state-centered marketplaces where individuals and businesses will find private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare and will be directed by “navigators” and computers to the right health care product. The feds want the states to take on the responsibility of these exchanges — and fund their operation. If states choose not to build an exchange, the federal government will do it for us.

Should Maine choose to implement an exchange, we’ll be responsible for all of the heavy lifting such as the required monitoring and overseeing of insurers in the exchange, the overseeing and administering the exchange itself, the navigators and the computer systems (which must be tied in with DHHS system) and all collection of fees and taxes to fund the exchange.

Yet we will have little if any real control over this state exchange — it is still up to the whims of feds in charge of ACA. State control in this case is only an illusion — and an expensive one.

The federal government simply does not have the money to run 50 of these exchanges, estimated at between $20 million and $70 million per year each to operate. They are counting on states running these exchanges for them.

Suggestions from HHS for revenue sources include taxes on insurance premiums, a targeted sales tax, an “unhealthy” food tax or perhaps a targeted income tax.

These funds would come out of Maine’s health care system and our economy. Maine does not have an economy to support these new taxes and we only recently repealed through a people’s veto a tax on beer, wine, soda and health claims that was to be used to fund Dirigo Health.

An insurance marketplace that allows more competition and choice for consumers is what makes sense and is what people want. Last year’s LD 1333 (now PL 90) begins to do this and a second study by our Bureau of Insurance confirms it. In the first year of implementation of the new law, 80 percent of the individual market should see lower premiums than they would have without these reforms.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Washington and Maine are wrong about ObamaCare. Our health care system is already laboring under too much bureaucracy; adding more to it — much more, in the case of ObamaCare — will probably destroy it.

Rep. Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, is in his fourth term in the Maine House of Representatives and serves on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

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