Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed millions of conservatives in 2012 when he upheld the Affordable Care Act and simply classified it as a "tax." Of course, we already knew Obamacare was a tax and the Roberts decision certainly didn't make it so, but now we have added proof that the new health law truly is a tax: it's killing something. In this case, it's killing health care spending. And the funny thing is that we're being told this is a good thing. It's not.
According to a new report from the Robert Johnson Foundation the U.S. will spend $2.5 trillion less on health care from 2014 until 2019 than had been originally estimated at the time the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. The report isn't sure how much of a role Obamacare is playing in lowering these spending projections, yet it does believe it is doing something here along with the still weak economy and lower number of Americans currently employed.
But the report's authors needn't be shy about attributing this reduction to the ACA. The fact is, these projections are greatly due to Obamacare because it is a tax and like all taxes it's shrinking the revenues of the service or good it's taxing. In this case that service is health care and they call it "spending" to make it sound like it's good that it's going down. But notice how none of these studies discuss how the prices for health care are going down. That's because, they're generally not. If spending were going down because the cost of health care was going down, that would be good news. But that's the kind of good news only the free market can bring and sustain. Obamacare is still a tax that's reducing the amount of health care Americans are receiving.
What's that you say? You say that can't be true because the ACA is responsible for 16 million more Americans getting health insurance coverage? Well, that's true. But what's also true, and crucially so in this case, is that health insurance and health care are two different things. And the more people get "covered" under either Obamacare plans or the ACA process that's shifting millions into Medicaid, the more they're not going to get good care and the less they're going to want to pay for it.
Think about it, the very high deductibles for many of the Obamacare plans are enough to keep away lots of people who should visit the doctor. The struggle millions of Americans are facing to find new doctors who accept the ACA plans they're now on is another great way to keep spending down. Some of this will backfire in another big way a few years down the road when more and more of these people who haven't been seeing a doctor wind up in much costlier emergency rooms. I guess the bean counters can just readjust for that when the time comes.
But if you think the Obamacare tax is effective at killing things now, you ain't seen nothing yet.
That's because the mother of all Obamacare taxes hasn't even kicked in yet. That would be the so-called 40% excise "Cadillac tax" that goes into effect in 2018. That's the tax that's so high and affects more than just the best plans so severely that ACA guru Jonathan Gruber boasted it would just about kill off the whole tradition of employer-provided health insurance in this country. Yep, there's another reference to a tax killing something. And in this case, the rest of the country that hasn't already had to suffer the indignities of searching for a new ACA-accepting doctor or finding out what it means to be "covered" by Medicaid is going to find out just how much less they'll be able to spend on health care.
The "Cadillac tax" is so egregious and will hit so many people that the effort to repeal it is already bringing together an odd team of Republicans and Democrats in Congress and CEOs and union leaders from the private sector. The 2016 presidential candidates won't be able to ignore the issue and the smartest campaigns will make attacking it a cornerstone of their message to the voters.
Until then, try not to be too impressed with all the studies trumpeting reduced health care spending. Like all things, we're spending less on health care because we're getting less health care. And like all taxes, that's what Obamacare was meant to do all along.