Everyone knows that I was adamantly opposed to the passage of Obamacare. At the time it was being debated I felt that it didn't do anything to really address the issue of healthcare reform, but rather just addressed who was going to pay for coverage within a broken system with spiraling higher costs. And, I still feel the same way. We haven't treated the problem, but merely the symptoms.
But, our president has made it abundantly clear that elections have consequences and he won. And, since the Supreme Court ruled that the legislation was really a tax – something the administration vehemently denied right up until the decision – Obamacare is now the law of the land. So, in all fairness I thought that I should give you a current snapshot of how the government is doing in implementing this new law.
Then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was very prophetic when she stated that "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it." And now we are finding new things out every day. The biggest parts of the bill were supposed to be in place starting Jan. 1, 2014 – ironically enough after the 2012 election. Now, some of those provisions have already been pushed off for at least another year.
I get asked questions by a lot of people about insurance issues so I have been trying to find out just where we are on several provisions of this new law and quite frankly I haven't had much luck. I have talked with a variety of individuals that are intimately connected to the insurance industry and who are experts in their fields and they just don't know what to tell me.
They all say the same thing – no one really knows what is going to happen. And, that is extremely troubling. The health insurance exchanges (the system where uninsured individuals can purchase health coverage) are supposed to be set up by October of this year. The problem is that over half the states have refused to set up state-run systems which means that the federal government has to have one in place by that time.
It is now May and the October deadline is less than five months away. Do you really think that the federal government is going to be able to develop this new system in that amount of time? If you do then you are much more optimistic than I am.
And then there is this little issue of cost. The Congressional Budget Office, which is a non-partisan federal agency that provides analysis of the federal budget, estimates that it will cost anywhere from $5 to $10 billion just to implement the law. Nothing like giving yourself plenty of "wriggle room." Now remember, that's not the cost of the program itself – that's just the cost to put it in place.
Page 2 of 2 - I don't think that most CEOs of businesses would give their folks that kind of leeway in estimating costs. Otherwise they could never accurately control costs. Oh, I forgot, the government doesn't have to worry about that – it's a government program and the government can just print more money.
So, just to recap, we have a law that no one really understands that is supposed to be ready to go in less than five months and the implementation cost is anywhere between $5 and $10 billion. And, on top of that, we are hiring thousands of new government employees called "navigators" at salaries up to $100,000 a year to tell people how to access a system that may or may not be in place when it is supposed to be and that no one even really understands.
I think that this is a fair snapshot of where we are at with Obamacare. It's not a pretty picture but it is what it is. I am at a loss as to what to tell people when they ask me about this new law but when things do get a little clearer I will give you another update. I do have to agree with the president on one point – elections do have consequences. And, we are seeing those consequences play out in a very real manner.
Kevin Wilson writes a weekly column for the Daily News.