The increasingly complex (and failing) health care law

obamacare

October 1st, 2013 has come and gone and with it, implementation of the next stage of the Affordable Care Act.  As we approach the January 1st implementation and the 2014 mid-term elections campaign, even some members of the Democratic Party are beginning to ask questions about the implementation and even the feasibility of one of the largest changes in domestic policy since the creation of Social Security back during the 1930s.  Even Forbes Online featured an editorial by Steven Haywood called “Obamacare Will Be Repealed Well In Advance Of The 2014 Elections” claiming that the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has become so toxic to Democratic Party members of Congress that something will have to be done – including a vote to repeal and even override an anticipated veto from President Obama to maintain their control of the Senate.  It makes the casual observer of American politics to wonder exactly what has failed to cause the crowing jewel of a Democratic Party dominated national government – the White House, the Senate, and House of Representatives – to become a toxic liability rather than a party asset.

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 I am sure that as political scientists, political theorists, and policy historians begin to dissect the legislation there will literally be thousands of articles and publications highlighting the numerous faults within the bill.  It is through the lens of time that we will be able to fully understand why the regulation of nearly twenty percent of the national economy was destined to fail before it ever became fully implemented.  There are many reasons that I believe why the Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare – has not been the program that most of the president’s supporters thought it was and why his critics knew it was going to become. The first reason why the Affordable Care Act has failed is because of its complexity.  The law, sold and explained to the American public as a way to lower healthcare costs and regulate the healthcare industry actually went far beyond its explained purpose.

Not only did it regulate the insurance industry, it created new taxes on medical equipment, it forces health insurance companies to add new benefits at no cost to the insured, it created a new level of federal government bureaucracy, it places new powers and responsibilities in the hands of the Internal Revenue Service, it gives the Department of Health and Human Services broad powers to administer it, and it places new regulations on the states, and for insurance/financial purposes, it redefines adulthood.  And if that is not enough, it also exempts Congress, the Presidency, and other members of the national government from participation in this national health care program. It was a massive undertaking and even at its impressive 2,800 pages, it still would require additional regulations that are to be written by the Department of Health and Human Services; according to various websites, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are already 17,843 pages of additional regulation that allows for the implementation of the law.

The law, already complex, has been made more complex by regulation and the actions of the Obama administration itself.  The Obama administration has decided to grant waivers to labor unions, large corporations, and political allies, creating a situation where it appears that special favors have been granted to financial supporters and political allies of the administration. Instead of being a uniform law that is to be applied equally to all Americans, the law has created division. As reported by Fox News by Maxim Lot in his article, “ObamaCare price hikes hit ‘red states’ hardest“, the Affordable Care Act is  now being used as a political weapon against states where conservatives still retain power.  As this legislative drama has unfolded, life-long Democratic Party supporters at the local level are beginning to question if the law will ever live up to even the most modest of expectations.

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Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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