ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Rep. Barney Frank has led a parade of Democrats in renouncing the passage of the Affordable Care Act, suggesting the far-reaching law may be a net deficit for the party on Election Day.
“I think we paid a terrible price for health care,” the Massachusetts Democrat recently told reporters. “I would not have pushed it as hard.”
He said President Obama should have seen the election of Republican Scott Brown to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy as a demand to pivot away from sweeping health reform two years ago.
Other Democrats have echoed Frank: ObamaCare cost the president “a lot of credibility as a leader,” said Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
Passing ObamaCare “wasn’t worth” the political cost, added Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth.
“The climate out there was really ugly because of it,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.
Former Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala. says ObamaCare “is the single least popular piece of major domestic legislation in the last 70 years.” It will be “an albatross” for Democrats in 2012, Davis predicts.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., had labored in 2009 to develop a health reform plan that could win bipartisan support.
Having Republicans on board would have deflected the sharp partisan divide, but the White House short-circuited the effort because the president and his advisers grew impatient with the delay.
As it is, the healthcare overhaul law is in serious trouble and may either be struck down by the Supreme Court — in part or in full — or it will become a major issue in the 2012 elections, with a strong effort on behalf of conservatives to push for full repeal next year.
Two-thirds of the American people in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll said they want all or part of the law to be struck down by the courts. If the Congress remains divided and President Obama is re-elected, major changes will have to be made to the law.
The cost is soaring even before most of its provisions take effect in 2014. The Congressional Budget Office now calculates the 10-year cost will be $1.76 trillion, nearly twice the $940 billion estimated when the law was enacted two years ago. In an era of ballooning federal deficits, these costs are simply unacceptable.
Further, major companies are seriously considering dropping health insurance coverage altogether to avoid the huge costs of complying with the employer mandate.
The price tag will rise even further as millions of people who currently receive health insurance at work learn that their employers are sending them into the subsidized coverage in the exchanges.
Former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin expects this could add an additional $1 trillion to the cost of the law.
As ObamaCare falters, members of Congress will be forced to head back to the negotiating table and get reform right because there are serious problems in the health sector that must be solved.
There is general agreement that reform must provide a strong safety-net for people with pre-existing conditions and that subsidies were needed to help millions of uninsured obtain coverage. Medicare and Medicaid both must be changed if they are to survive. There are changes that both sides could agree on.
Republicans say they will take a step-by-step approach to reform. As they plan their strategy, it would be wise for them to take a lesson from Frank: First, don’t try to do too much too fast, and, second, make sure you have bi-partisan support for health reform legislation so you can garner support from Democrats as well as Republicans.
That’s the only way for healthcare legislation to be accepted because its mandates ultimately will impact all Americans.
• Turner is president and founder of the Galen Institute, which is funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries.