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Begich and Obamacare

Posted: November 14, 2013 - 1:08am

Sen. Begich declared on Nov. 12 in the Juneau Empire that he had successfully entered the ACA (Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare) healthcare website. How ironic that he had to announce his achievement to the media, and even more ironic, he is one of the very few Alaskans able to do so. Meanwhile, thousands of Alaskans are losing their insurance due to the ACA. Ironic because he refused to delay or modify the ACA  even when he knew how bad it would be for many Alaskans. Just to remind everyone — his support was critical to passage of the ACA. His fingerprints are all over both the ACA and the deception necessary to pass the legislation and its implementation. The deception promulgated by the president to the American people regarding the passage and affects of the ACA is well known. His iconic the “if you like your existing healthcare, you can keep it” line is one of the great American deceits. However, our junior senator is a full and willing participant in that deception. Consider the following:

ACA Website: The federal government spent nearly a billion dollars and 3.5 years developing the website. Testing demonstrated that it was not ready to go live, yet they proceeded to roll it out anyway because delay would pose political troubles.  

“If you like your existing healthcare you can keep it”:

The senator, in his own 2009 press release, made virtually the same deceptive promise as the president. Worse, in 2010, testimony was given in the Senate documenting how regulations promulgated by HSS would force millions of Americans out of their existing healthcare. He voted “no” to the resolution (S.J Resolution 39, 9-29-2010) that would have modified the law to help people keep their existing insurance. In other words, he has known for three years that the ACA would force many Alaskans to lose their private health plans, causing many great personal cost and potentially jeopardizing their health.  He didn’t have the courage to stand and correct the president, much less own up and correct his own statements.

“ACA will not cut your Medicare benefit”:

The senator claimed that the ACA would not cut Medicare benefits to seniors. This is probably the worst deception of all. ACA subsidies are funded by approximately $700 billion in “savings” from Medicare — in other words, cuts to an existing successful healthcare program are being used to fund the ACA experiment. The cuts are being made into payment to insurers, hospitals, doctors, non-profit service providers, etc., rather than directly to Medicare recipients, so the senator can say that benefits are not directly cut. However, the result is that many medical providers no longer provide services to Medicare recipients — they can’t or they will bankrupt themselves. As a result, thousands of clinics, hospitals, nonprofits cannot provide the level of service provided previously, and are forced to turn away seniors using Medicare. To make the deception complete, doctors and hospitals are demonized for turning away Medicare recipients, despite the fact that it is government actions that force them to. Seniors are forced to go without, or face the financial  burden to pay for them out of pocket. To our senator, that’s not a cut.

“ACA will not increase taxes to the middle class”: 

The president already broke his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class with the “penalty” that government lawyers argued before the Supreme Court as a tax.  The ACA is rife with new taxes, but due to our highly unionized workforce (including Alaska state workers), the one that has the great potential to damage Alaskans is the 40 percent excise tax on high value health insurance plans. Businesses and other entities, including my own employer, that have done the right thing by investing in the health and welfare of their employees will instead in 2018 be forced to either absorb this punitive tax, pass it on to their employees, or drop the coverage — which will have the government-desired effect of forcing private citizens into the government controlled insurance exchanges. This is a double deception — see “if you like your health care you can keep it”.

“ACA will not reduce Americans access to health care”:

Approximately 25 percent of the cost of subsidies provided under the ACA will be paid for by a new tax on medical device makers and drug companies. This will have the effect of either driving some companies out of business, curtailing R&D, or forcing them to pass the cost of that tax on to consumers. The result is a constriction on new research and an increase in the cost of existing drugs and devices. This absolutely results in a reduction in access and quality of American healthcare.

None of the above is speculation or conjecture. These are true, irrefutable facts. As these facts become more selfevident, the senator’s behavior reminds me of some child racing out to explore the receding waterline along the beach just before a tsunami strikes. Sen. Begich is inviting us to walk out on that newly exposed beach saying, “See, thanks to me, all the new insurance requirements are making healthcare more affordable and available.” Meanwhile, the tidal wave of rising costs and unspeakable, unintended consequences is coming, and, in fact, is already upon us.

It is not the intention of this column to offer alternatives to the ACA. The senator, by virtue of his key role in passage and implementation of the ACA determined that the ACA is the future for Alaska. It may be too late to reverse the ACA, but I would certainly hope Alaskans remember him in the next election.

• Yorba is an Alaska resident.

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