Conservatives raise false alarms over the health care law

March 9, 2014 

The Obama Administration’s latest report on enrollment for private insurance through one of the online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act says over 3 million people have signed up. That’s astounding considering the technical glitches in the roll-out of the marketplaces and the expected difficulty in getting young and uninsured people to sign up.

And the latest news on the federal deficit shows a dramatic drop. The growth in health care spending is slowing.

These facts, and they are facts, might cause a double-take from Americans who figured the ACA was doomed, based on what they were hearing from Republicans in Congress.

Ah, yes. The doomsayers first rejoiced when the roll-out of the health care online exchanges was plagued by technical glitches. Obama’s legion of critics loved it. They pronounced “Obamacare” a clear failure and kept talking about the need to do away with it.

Then the glitches got fixed. People started to sign up. They got their insurance. And, as more of the uninsured and the healthy young sign up, premiums will level off and decrease.

Unfortunately for the critics, their predictions of financial disaster and of a skyrocketing deficit also proved wrong. The same was true with their cracked crystal ball readings that health care spending would explode.

But the critics keep trying, bless their hearts.

Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina’s 2nd District is among those who keep flinging whatever they can find against the health care reform hoping something will stick. But her latest endeavor has fallen down the wall.

Ellmers is not alone, among Republicans at least, in saying that the Obama administration is cutting Medicare Advantage to pay for the ACA. What’s going on is that Medicare, through the federal agency that runs it, is figuring what it will pay to private providers for Medicare Advantage plans next year. Medicare Advantage goes through private insurers, with funds from the federal government.

The numbers are revised every year. What the agency is doing under President Obama is not new and is an attempt to cut overpayments to providers. Is Ellmers now in favor of spending more on entitlement programs? And forecasts from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office about the future of Medicare Advantage are optimistic. The CBO says Medicare Advantage will continue to grow.

Also on the health care front: The University of North Carolina system is looking at considerable expense in 2015 to provide health insurance to nonpermanent employees working 30 hours or more a week. That’s a requirement under the ACA for large employers, and it’s fair.

But the UNC system is considering cutting some hours and jobs. That came to light from, among other places, a blog post by Marty Kotis, a new UNC Board of Governors member.

Though UNC officials acknowledge the need to reduce the estimated $47 million annual expense of providing the benefits, they also say they’re looking at a way to create an additional tier of coverage that would save money and allow them to provide coverage to more employees.

That’s fair enough.

What’s not fair is that ACA critics claim the potential expense at UNC and possible job cuts prove the health care reform law is hopelessly flawed.

There’s irony in all of this criticism. Some of the Republicans who would like to have people believe the president’s health care act will destroy Medicare have been vocal critics of entitlement programs, including Medicare.

And some who wring their hands over the possibility that some UNC employees might lose their jobs because of health care reform also support cuts to public education and criticize the university system for failing to reduce its budget.

These ironies, of course, merely clarify the real reasons behind the “concerns” expressed. The ACA didn’t fail, which is driving some people up the wall.

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