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Cost? What cost?
Health care reform law: More expensive than promised

Date published: 4/29/2010

WHO COULD have possibly predicted this? The new health care reform law is going to cost more than projected. In fact, it will not achieve President Obama's goal of reducing national spending on medical care.

Who's behind this critical report? A GOP think tank? Rush Limbaugh?

No, it's the president's own Department of Health and Human Services. The analysis released last Thursday by the Office of the Actuary for Medicare predicts that, while 34 million more people will be covered by insurance, costs will rise 1 percent over 10 years. In fact, that figure could go much higher because offsetting cuts to Medicare may be unrealistic and unsustainable.

The report says that the 15 percent reduction in Medicare the law requires could force many hospitals into the red--or into a policy of refusing to treat Medicare patients. Furthermore, the reduction could gut the popular Medicare Advantage program: Fifty percent of those enrolled could lose coverage.

On July 28, Mr. Obama, during a health-reform town hall meeting sponsored by the American Association of Retired People, said, "Here's the guarantee that I'll make: If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance." And: "Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare."

Having castigated opponents of health care reform for "spreading lies," how exactly does the president reconcile his "guarantees" with reality? And shame on the AARP for pretending to support retirees while endorsing a plan that cuts Medicare programs.

Meanwhile, aware that the cost controls in the new law won't work, Democrats are holding hearings on a new bill that would allow states to establish price controls on insurance premiums. It's simple math, really: The new bill's provisions that go into effect at once (for example, allowing young people to stay on their parents' policy until age 26) will cost insurance companies money. Ergo, premiums will rise. That means Mr. Obama's claim that the new law will "lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government" is categorically untrue.

Democrats expressed conviction that once their health care reform legislation passed, Americans would love it. Sounded plausible. However, as details of the bill emerge, the public's antipathy grows. Realclearpolitics.com reports almost 53 percent of Americans dislike the new law, and over half of those polled would like it repealed.

Mr. Obama mocked foes of the health care law in campaign-style speeches after he signed the bill, saying they acted as if it were the end of the world. It's not, of course, but, so far, opponents' forecasts have been much more accurate than Mr. Obama's otherworldly promises.