Republican Doctors Caucus Marks Grim Milestone of Obamacare

FreedomWorks recently hosted a conference call for bloggers and reporters with the House Republican Doctors Caucus. The forum allowed caucus members to make statements regarding the third anniversary of the passage of Obamacare, and the murky future of this deeply flawed legislation. Bloggers and reporters were given the opportunity to ask questions of the caucus members, leading to a lively discussion on the future of health care under this onerous bill.

Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) opened the call with this statement:

This Saturday marks three years since Obamacare’s passage. The Doctors Caucus and House Republicans have talked about the many reasons that this law is bad policy – that the law threatens patient access, that it’s chock-full of regulations that strangle business owners, and that young people’s health care costs will actually increase next year.

Jack Kemp said, “No one cares what you know until they know you care.” So rather than recite numbers and economic studies, as doctors and small business owners, our goal is to explain WHY Americans should care.

Dr. Gingrey has spoken to business owners in his district, and they are telling him that the new rules and “moving target” regulations are having a big impact – and this is before the law is fully implemented. “We’re afraid to grow,” said one business owner. “The lack of information is creating fear, and it’s not good for the economy.”

Dr. Gingrey went on to illustrate the full impact of Obamacare implementation on small businesses:

According to the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget, Obamacare will require American job creators, families, and health care providers to spend more than 127 million hours a year on compliance with the law. What does that number mean?

It means that one Georgia businesswoman has been forced to hold numerous meetings on company time for employees to help them understand the paperwork involved. On top of losses in productivity, these new rules are costing her—she recently hired an outside health care law expert just to ensure she is running her company “by-the-books.”

The employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health care coverage, is a major obstacle to expansion. They simply cannot afford it.

For example, one Georgia businessman, who employs 47 people, said that Obamacare has forced him to hire sub-contractors instead. Another owner, who employs 49 workers, recently purchased equipment instead of hiring new welders. Employers agreed these decisions are tough ones to make.

Several of the caucus members returned to the theme that young people would, ironically, be hardest hit by the implementation of Obamacare. Noting that many voters in their 20s voted for Obama in part due to the promise of health care overhaul, Dr. Gingrey reminded everyone that the unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is over 50%. Finding a job is hard enough in that age range, but finding one with full benefits is that much more difficult in this economy. Even more insidiously, Obamacare will only make this problem worse:

Beginning next year, young Americans’ will see a dramatic spike in their health care costs due to an age band restriction placed on insurance providers. This has been described as “sticker shock.”

For example, a 27-year-old earning $33,500 will see her premiums jump nearly $800 next year. At a time when 20-somethings face underemployment, record school debt, and less economic opportunity, it is unfair to saddle them with this burden.

Dr. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) pointed to the massive new regulations that have been written as a result of Obamacare:

This law was defiantly shoved down the throats of the American people and since its passage, the Obama administration wasted no time imposing oppressive and costly new rules upon us.

The Administration will be writing regulations regarding this law for decades.  In fact, just earlier this month they release 828 pages in one day.  We now have over 20,000 pages of regulation in total. 

Dr. Gosar has direct experience witnessing the effects of government run health care:

In Arizona, those who have been on government health care the longest are now seeking private options. The Native American tribes [no longer] want government run health care.

In possibly the most revealing comment of the call, Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD) pointed out a hidden risk of Obamacare, one that we’re already seeing in the British NHS:

… the increasing employment of physicians by hospitals and health care systems and the lack of physicians being able to practice independently.  We know, for instance, that whereas at the beginning of the last decade, well more than half of physicians practiced independently.  That number is under half, it is under 50%, in fact it is under 40% now and shrinking rapidly. We will have the rationing of care, and it will be because you have created financial incentives for the physician gatekeepers through their employment situations to actually limit care.  And these are real concerns for physicians who just want to do what is best for their patients, they don’t have a third party or the government intervening.  And again, this is one of the concerns I have is that we are not only going to see structural changes to how health care is paid for by insurance, we are going to see structural changes to how health care is delivered in and of itself. 

I followed up with a question regarding Quality Adjusted Life Years and the Liverpool Care Pathway that I blogged about in January. This led to quite a discussion, particularly from Harris and Gingrey, that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) would effectively be the same thing – bureaucrats rationing care and limiting the rights of the individual to choose their own care. Each member was careful, however, to avoid the “inflammatory language” of referring to rationing as “death panels”, agreeing that such language would not serve to convince more voters than it would repel. Rather, the theme of the caucus was that they all wished to convince voters that the mountain of regulations, the massive new bureaucracies, the rejection of personal choice in your own health care and the significant uncertainties created for employers would be sufficient arguments to convince voters that repeal is the best option.

Indeed, the caucus laid out an ambitious goal of full repeal of Obamacare, while noting that it would require a pro-repeal majority in the House and Senate and a President who would sign a repeal bill. While this is a massive undertaking, the Republican Doctors Caucus remains 100% committed to full repeal. This is in line with public opinion, which has consistently disapproved of Obamacare, with most Americans still favoring full repeal.

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