"The Affordable Care Act was actually designed to discourage employers from covering their workers, as the penalty for not meeting the employer mandate is quite small, while the 'minimum essential coverage' will be very expensive," says Dr. Alieta Eck, president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
Eck, and other critics of the plan, brand Obamacare a Trojan Horse for a "single-payer" plan run by the government. And the president has said as much.
Speaking to an AFL-CIO convention when he was still an Illinois senator, Obama said, "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.
"I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. Everybody in, nobody out -- a single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. That's what I’d like to see," Obama said back in 2007.
Even health-care professionals admit the current system is rickety and inefficient.
The Obama plan "is essentially a massive extension of the failed Medicaid system. This already consumes one-quarter to one-third of the average state budget, yet reimburses so poorly that most physicians cannot afford to be enrolled," Eck says.
On the other hand, the existing model under which some 170 million American workers depend on their employers for health-care coverage appears increasingly untenable.
"Employer-based health insurance has proven inadequate," Eck says. "It developed in a time when people were less mobile and the norm was to find a job and stay with it until it was time for the retirement dinner and gold watch.
"Now that people tend to regularly change jobs, getting into and out of health insurance policies leads to disruption of care as different doctors are in different plans."
So even if the high court rejects Obamacare and maintains the status quo, physicians acknowledge that chronic problems lie ahead for a system in which costs have risen dramatically since the government entered the picture in 1965, with the advent of Medicaid and Medicare.
To make matters worse, federally imposed price limits on premiums with increasing mandated benefits will serve to drive the insurance companies out of business, industry analysts predict.
"It is our opinion that expanding the government involvement in medical care will reduce quality and overwhelm the taxpayers. Many doctors will retire early. More bureaucracy simply does not lead to better medical care," says Eck, a longtime physician from Piscataway, N.J.
Alternatively, the AAPS recommends "going back to the way we funded medical care in the past, when less government was better."
"We physicians would be willing to see patients for free if we were not subject to the onerous medical malpractice system we now have. We are proposing that physicians volunteer four hours a week in a nongovernment free clinic, where patients can regularly access the care they need," Eck said.
"In response, we will be asking the states to protect us from medical malpractice in our private practices. This will cost the state nothing unless we are sued. And lawsuits will diminish dramatically. It will also curtail the huge amount of unnecesary testing that is done, lowering the cost of private health insurance as well."
Eck, with her husband, founded the Zarephath Health Center in 2003. The New Jersey free clinic for the poor and uninsured currently cares for 300-400 patients per month utilizing the donated services of volunteer physicians and nurses.
Florida Medical Association spokeswoman Erin Vansickle said the FMA "is not affiliated with [AAPS], so we can't vouch for it or its proposal."
In the meantime, a national coalition of small businesses is turning up the heat on Capitol Hill this week.
National Federation of Independent Business spokeswoman Amanda Austin said, “Now, more than ever, we need to remove the restrictions and high costs that burden small businesses, cripple their bottom lines and drastically impact their ability to hire and expand.”
Targeting the Health Insurance Tax, due to take effect in 2014, NFIB estimates the federally imposed levy would cost employees and the self-employed $87 billion a year.
If no action is taken, NFIB says the HIT will:
- Affect more than 2 million small businesses and 26 million employees who are covered by their employers.
- Reduce the take-home pay of an average employee with a family plan by $500 a year.
- Cost the United States up to 250,000 jobs and $30 billion in lost sales nationally by 2021.
Legislation aimed at repealing the HIT has gained bipartisan support in Congress. Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced “The Jobs and Premium Protection Act,” and Reps. Charles Boustany, R-La., and Dan Boren, D-Okla., introduced companion House legislation that has more than 130 bipartisan cosponsors.
“Small businesses simply cannot afford another tax, especially during this economic spiral,” Austin said. “Washington must get behind legislation to repeal this job-killing tax.”
The Stop The HIT Coalition, composed of 36 national organizations representing millions of employees from across the nation, also has garnered the support of Florida Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola; Bill Posey, R-Rockledge; Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland; Steve Southerland, R-Tallahassee; Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala; and Allen West, R-Plantation.
According to the Advanced Medical Technology Association, Obamacare will kill jobs and reduce economic productivity.
“A $3 billion hit on the medical device industry -- roughly the effect of the health-care reform law's industry tax -- would cost nearly 39,000 jobs and more than $8 billion in economic output, according to a report by the association.
Even though HIT hasn't been implemented yet, medical-sector companies are already laying off American workers and outsourcing jobs, according to press reports.
Cook Medical is no longer planning to open a U.S. factory this year, and Boston Scientific, planning for a more than $100 million charge against earnings in 2013, recently built a $35 million research and development facility in Ireland and is building a $150 million factory in China.
Stryker Corp., based in Michigan, blames the tax for 1,000 layoffs. Zimmer, based in Indiana, is laying off 450 and taking a $50 million charge against earnings. Medtronic expects an annual charge against earnings of $175 million.
Covidien, now based in Ireland, has cited the HIT in explaining 200 layoffs and a decision to move some production to Costa Rica and Mexico.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.