William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Obamacare is creeping back into the national debate.
I know it's an important topic, but I just can't...
How about we stick with pot legalization, same-sex marriage or North Korean nukes -- something, anything, other than Obamacare. Whenever the subject arises, I feel like an idiot, and I suspect I'm not alone in feeling that way.
I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 I find so confusing, but somewhere within its 2,409 pages and 19,842 new regulatory mandates lies the answer.
Like I said, I just can't. I haven't gotten through "War and Peace" yet, and I started that in the 1970s.
The initial debate over Obamacare was bad enough, but that was largely theoretical. Now it's about to get real. The law will kick in in the middle of the 2014 federal election cycle, so it's going to be a hot and unavoidable topic of debate. (Prayer from a political consultant: Please, dear God, don't tell me I have to understand this thing in detail.)
A lack of comprehension about Obamacare is no barrier to arguing for or against the law, of course. Lots of people do it. I've debated Obamacare with ardent supporters of it whom I've quickly discovered, to my joy and surprise, know even less about this octopus of a new entitlement than I do. And these are people who work in politics for a living. How are Americans with real jobs expected to understand the thousands of changes to health care coming down?
Sure, people can watch the Obamcareheads on TV -- the dozen or so policy wonks who have actually crawled through the law's labyrinth of rabbit holes -- but just try to follow them as they explain its twists and turns with mind-numbing specificity. I can't, and I get paid to dumb down public policy.
One thing crystal clear about Obamacare, though, is that Barack Obama himself doesn't like talking about it. He failed to emphasize it as an issue or accomplishment in the campaign. That's curious. This is supposed to be his signature legislative achievement -- and a decades-long dream of the American left realized -- yet the president conspicuously avoids the subject. That tells me there are serious problems with his law.
Indeed, all kinds of new data projections are now coming in about the costs and efficacy of Obamacare going forward, which are kindling for the larger debate to come. Bean counters at the nonpartisan Society of Actuaries announced last week, for example, that individual health care costs will rise an estimated 32 percent for insurers under Obamacare in the first three years alone. Those costs, of course, will be passed on to consumers.
At the same time, lots of American companies are planning to drop insurance coverage for their employees, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It will be cheaper for employers to pay the $2,000 annual fine under the new law than to shell out the $15,000 or so for each employee family health plan. The CBO expects 7 million Americans to lose their employer-sponsored health care for this reason in the next 10 years.
The CBO also estimates that implementation of Obamacare will reduce U.S. employment by about 800,000 workers. And then there is the extra trillion dollars or so that Obamacare will add to the country's debt over the next 10 years.
These points can easily be argued. And they will be, ad nauseam, over the next 20 months, including by me.
But it's the larger question that continues to befuddle this American. And that's Obamacare itself.
Can someone explain it to me again?
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.