Obamacare Costs Hidden From Congress

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had information that Obamacare would raise health expenditures and drive hospitals into the red prior to the final House healthcare vote, but didn’t share it with members of Congress because the pending report was being internally reviewed.

“They were so eager to try to sell [the bill] to somebody, that they suppressed what were valid reports from experts in their own administration,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.) told HUMAN EVENTS in an interview.

“Every single thing that I and others have been saying since last year that they said were lies and scare tactics, this report confirms,” said Rep. Rogers. “Cost is going up, quality is likely to go down, and seniors are going to get negatively impacted by the negative Medicare cuts.”

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a part of the HHS, on April 22 released the report, “Estimated Financial Effects of the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ as Amended.”

“Total national health expenditures in the U.S. during 2010-2019 would increase by about 0.9%,” the report concluded. In addition, the increase in demand for health services could result in increased prices and cost-shifting.

The report contradicts President Obama’s promise that healthcare costs would not increase under the bill. The report said that “additional federal revenues would further offset the coverage costs; however, the Office of the Actuary does not have the expertise necessary to estimate all such impacts.”

An aide to Rep. Rogers said the report was being reviewed internally at HHS and was moving up in the department’s ranks, but was not ready for release by the time the vote came around.

“Basically, the CMS folks had the report internally reviewing it, but they did not release it publicly until now. The congressman’s point is that the administration had this information before the vote,” Rogers’ press secretary told HUMAN EVENTS.

When asked if the report’s numbers could be off and might actually predict a much darker picture of the future, Rogers said, “Absolutely.”

“If you look back, they’ve always been wrong halfway,” he said of the federal government’s projections for the future of healthcare. “The costs have always been at least double what they predict. And the ramifications on the negative side are always half of what they predict.”

Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R.-Tex.) said the report stated the obvious. “The findings from this report should surprise no one. For over a year I have said that the Democrats more-government-and-higher-taxes approach was the wrong way to achieve meaningful health reform, and would fail.”

The report says that some measures of the bill could control healthcare costs in the future. However, it says that “during 2010-2019 … these effects would be outweighed by the increased costs associated with the expansions of health insurance coverage.”

“I think the more you go through [the bill], the more we’re going to find that the numbers are worse,” Rogers said. “I’m not sure anyone in the administration read the bill. As a matter of fact, I would argue most members of Congress did not read the bill.… I’m probably close to 90% of the way through it. It is a difficult bill to read.”

The bill’s impact on Medicare also raises some potential red flags, according to the report.

For instance, around 15% of Part A Medicare providers will become unprofitable within 10 years because of “productivity adjustments,” the report says, because of cuts to Medicare.

“Over time, a sustained reduction in payment updates, based on productivity expectations that are difficult to attain, would cause Medicare payment rates to grow more slowly than, and in a way that was unrelated to, the providers’ costs of furnishing services to beneficiaries. Thus, providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program.”

Also, the Medicare Advantage program may face a sharp decline in enrollment soon. “The new provisions will generally reduce [Medicare Advantage] rebates to plans and thereby result in less generous benefit packages,” the report says.

“We estimate that in 2017, when the MA provisions will be fully phased in, enrollment in MA plans will be lower by about 50 percent (from its projected level of 14.8 million under the prior law to 7.4 million under the new law).”

Rep. Rogers believed that the Medicare problems mentioned in the report are just the “tip of the iceberg.”

He believed that the bill’s provisions have negatively affected doctors in such a manner as to discourage them, however unpurposefully, from taking new patients and even continuing in medicine.

At a recent event, he said that out of three doctors present, one was planning to move her patients to a concierge medical service and not take any new Medicare patients, another was getting out of the medical business altogether, and the third was going to sell his practice to the hospital in order to get reimbursed at a higher rate.

“These doctors haven’t taken a vow of poverty to work for the federal government,” Rogers said. “And I wouldn’t expect them to.”

“New Medicare patients are going to find it impossible to find a doctor in about 10 years. They have done more harm in one bill to the healthcare of our seniors then you could have ever possibly imagined,” Rogers concluded.

When asked what the most effective action would be to counter the bill, Rogers simply replied that the whole thing needs to go. “I think the premise of this bill was so wrong that you have to repeal and replace.”