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Dave Hickernell: ObamaCare will cost more than our state can afford

Posted 10/29/12

By Dave Hickernell

It is now widely known that the original cost of $940 billion for the first 10 years for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare, was grossly inaccurate.

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Dave Hickernell: ObamaCare will cost more than our state can afford


Updated estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now peg the cost to taxpayers at $1.76 trillion, a price tag that does not even include the cost of shifting the unreimbursed costs of Medicaid patients onto those who have insurance – a financial burden that will fall predominantly on the middle class and small business owners.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that ObamaCare is a tax increase – in fact, the largest tax hike in the history of our country – and also decided that the federal government may not withhold Medicaid funds if states decline to create the health exchanges or take the other steps needed to implement ObamaCare.

That means states may now decide whether they wish to participate in this federal scheme or not without losing their Medicaid funds.

I have reviewed this legislation and the Supreme Court’s ruling and have concluded the math just doesn’t work for Pennsylvanians, and that participating in this national health care plan would expand the state’s welfare rolls to unsustainable levels that would ultimately bankrupt the Commonwealth.  

The Obama administration has led many people to believe that passage of the Affordable Care Act will result in free medical care on demand for everyone in America with no ill effects. Of course, we are now learning that is not true.

The CBO now estimates that 4 million Americans will lose their employer-sponsored health plans by 2016, a lot more than the 1-million-person figure forecasted in 2011.

But the real concerns for Pennsylvania taxpayers come from the projected increased burden on already scarce Medicare funds  – 1 to 2 million fewer people will be granted access to the federally-subsidized health care exchanges, while an additional 1 million are estimated to qualify for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

By 2022, according to the CBO, 3 million fewer people will have health insurance through their employer, while 17 million Americans will be added to Medicaid and 22 million will be getting coverage through government-run exchanges. This will force states to expand Medicaid to unsustainable levels that will result in people losing the health care plans they currently have and like, and shutter the doors of businesses across the state, driving a vast number of workers into the unemployment lines.

That is why I recently co-sponsored two pieces of legislation that would effectively prevent ObamaCare from being implemented in Pennsylvania.

One measure prohibits the expansion of Medicaid that ObamaCare would require from taking place in Pennsylvania, and the other bill prohibits any federal money from being spent to set up the “health care exchanges” needed to administer ObamaCare in Pennsylvania.  

At the same time, however, I want to make sure the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians get the medical care that we have promised them. But that is a problem because the way states are permitted to expend their Medicaid funds is currently controlled by a federal formula established by federal law.

If a state wants to deviate from that formula to prevent wasteful spending and provide better medical care to a greater number of people, it must apply for a federal waiver to do so, which can take years to be approved.

And, since so many of these waivers have been granted over the years, the Medicaid spending “formula” has become a complex patchwork of exceptions that even experts find difficult to navigate.

The fact is that the federal spending guidelines have not meant much for a long time and the track record of adhering to them is replete with instances of wasted taxpayer dollars and subpar medical service for Medicaid patients.  

The bottom line is that all unbiased assessments of ObamaCare indicate it will cost more than we can afford and diminish the greatest health care system in the world.

The legislation I am co-sponsoring would prevent health care exchanges from being created and encourage the federal establishment of grants for Medicaid in the Keystone State, allowing us to spend our Medicaid funds in the manner that best serves Pennsylvanians.

State Rep. Dave Hickernell is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. His district, the 98th, includes Londonderry Twp., Elizabethtown and a part of Middletown.