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What happens when Washington knows best

By Mac Thornberry

Washington, October 18, 2010 | Alison Lynn or Margaret Matthews (202-225-3706)
It has been a little over six months since the health care reform bill passed Congress and was signed into law. Already we are seeing some effects of the new health law on the health insurance market. Premiums are rising, coverage for part-time employees might become a thing of the past, and some insurance companies are no longer offering child-only plans. Unfortunately, these consequences may just be the tip of the iceberg of the Washington-knows-best attitude.
It has been a little over six months since the health care reform bill passed Congress and was signed into law.  Already we are seeing some effects of the new health law on the health insurance market.  Premiums are rising, coverage for part-time employees might become a thing of the past, and some insurance companies are no longer offering child-only plans.  Unfortunately, these consequences may just be the tip of the iceberg of the Washington-knows-best attitude.
 
Many of the provisions of the 2,000-plus page law have not yet taken affect, and some will not until 2014.  Regulations to implement parts of the bill are being written as we speak.  With a sluggish economy, businesses are rightly concerned about the overall bill and its effect on their companies.  They are waiting for the other shoe to drop when additional regulations become public.  Already, Americans everywhere are facing higher health insurance premiums – sometimes by as much as 20 to 30 percent.
 
The latest evidence of what this bill will mean came recently when McDonalds, along with 29 other companies and organizations, were granted waivers or exceptions from the federal government, allowing them to opt out of a key mandate in the new health care law.  The waiver allows the groups to maintain coverage below the new law's standards.  These companies made clear that they would have to drop existing coverage completely or raise employee premiums by as much as 200 percent if they had to comply with the requirement of the new law.
 
Passing a new law and then having to exempt 30 companies from complying with it six months later does not build confidence in the new law.  In fact, Speaker Pelosi’s remark that they had to pass it to find out what is in it seems to be coming true.  It also raises questions as to how some companies and unions could get a waiver and others did not.  Would it not be better to exempt everyone from the new law?
 
Unfortunately, this health care law is having the effects that some of us warned it would have.  It is limiting choice, taking away what people already have, raising costs, and making some child-only plans a thing of the past.  The new law is a prime example of an approach to lawmaking that we have seen a lot recently -- Washington always knows best.
 
As we have seen in the last 20 months, too many of the things Washington does disrupts the market.  In this case, the government takeover of health care is already causing the cost of health care to rise because of the immediate regulations that are taking effect this year.  What will happen to the market when all of the provisions of the massive government takeover of the health care industry take effect in 2014?  
 
There are concrete steps that Congress should take to lower costs and provide for the most vulnerable in our society, and the American people have called on Congress to do so.  To start, giving small businesses the option to pool together with other businesses, just as corporation and unions do, would allow them to offer insurance to their employees at a lower cost.  Allowing access to health care for people with pre-existing conditions and permitting people to buy insurance across state lines would have a positive effect.  And common-sense medical liability reform would reduce unnecessary spending, lower health insurance premiums, end junk lawsuits and curb the practice of defensive medicine that adds billions of dollars of costs to our health care system.
 
Health care reform is needed.  But we need to reform in individual steps rather than a 2,000-plus page bill that could result in thousands of pages of regulations. Washington does not know best when it comes to the most private and personal aspect of our lives, and we must work to repeal the health care law and replace it with reform that is centered on the patient.  Now that would be health care reform we can all believe in.