The Affordable Care Act One Year Later: A Disaster for The Economy?

Mike Hennessy
Published Online: Monday, June 13, 2011
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Pundits have been talking about the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at its one-year anniversary, but it has been a disheartening and thoroughly partisan debate. Supporters claim that the initial steps of this bill have already benefited young adults, seniors, and small business owners. The “feel good” of covering uninsured people is constantly brought up as a victory for the country, even though only 18,000 people have enrolled in the government’s Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan, a far cry from the 200,000 that were predicted. But consider what the ACA will actually do to the economy—which continues to be in turmoil, as evidenced by the new May job numbers—and you might think again about this new law of the land. 

Opposition to the bill has led to gains by the GOP in Congress, and 2 federal courts have already ruled that part or all of the law is unconstitutional. These actions only fuel the discussion underway in Washington and within professional health care organizations. Lots of talk, lots of controversy.

But there is one individual who is well worth listening to regarding the ACA and its impact. That person is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office. His laser-sharp focus on what is essentially wrong with this bill— and why—is a refreshingly clear view amidst all the noise.

First, Holtz-Eakin rightly believes that a highly partisan push led to a flawed law in the first place. “All partisan laws end up being bad policy,” he said at a recent policy forum, “Those laws are never infused with the best ideas of both sides, and as a result they are not as good, and they immediately become objects for overturning.” And that’s exactly the position we find ourselves in today with what Holtz-Eakin calls the “shaky foundation” of the ACC.

Even more importantly, he views this bill as a “dramatically dangerous piece of legislation” that comes at exactly the wrong point in our economic history. “There is no way you can pretend that the Affordable Care Act will improve the government’s fiscal or budgetary condition,” Holtz-Eakin states. There’s also no way that tax revenues and the economy will grow enough to keep up with the spending demands of this bill, and he predicts that the federal budget will deteriorate. Can we afford this at a time when all sectors of the economy—including the pharmacy job outlook—are struggling?

Furthermore, the promises made within this bill, with 2 new entitlement spending programs in the form of long-term care insurance and insurance subsidies, cannot be kept. Time will tell, but it looks as if once again we will be facing a major health care crisis in this country. Holtz-Eakin’s warning that the ACA is a “dangerous step from an economic and budgetary policy point of view” should raise some red flags as the ACC debate and implementation continues. As a health care professional, don’t you think it is time to listen?

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

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