Let’s Explore the Waking Nightmare That Is Health Care Reform

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr takes on health care reform.
Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr takes on health care reform.

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr “signed on to a friend of the court brief in support of a court challenge to the federal health care law,” says the AP. Well, OK! Is that a good thing? I think it’s a good thing, maybe, but keep in mind I’m not a lawyer, I don’t really understand “legal stuff” and I am easily confused by the plot turns in a typical episode of “Franklin and Bash.” (Catch “Franklin and Bash” Wednesdays at 9/8 Central on TNT!)

But what I do know is that the health care reform law (a.k.a. the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare,” choose your spin) is just terrible in every regard, a fact that was brought home to me yet again after I popped in on a Health Care Reform Summit hosted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) in Texarkana. Oh, by the way, I was in Texarkana yesterday for some reason.

Much of the recent focus on the health care reform law has centered on court challenges, bureaucratic implementation processes and political implications for the 2012 presidential race. What gets lost in the mix is the impact the law is having, and is going to have, on those who are contending now with its consequences.

About 100 people, mostly small business owners and medical providers, attended the Texarkana event, and based on audience questions, the signal achievement of the health care reform law has been to sow anxiety and confusion across the land. Many business owners have little idea what they need to do or how it will affect them; some understand pieces of the law, but have little sense of the whole package.

A ‘mixing bowl’ of incoherent policies

Amanda Austin, NFIB’s director of federal public policy in Washington (and a Pine Bluff native), emphasized that the confusion surrounding the law is aThe signal achievement of health care reform has been to sow anxiety and confusion. feature, not a bug.

She said she’s been studying the bill since it passed—she described it as a “mixing bowl” of incoherent policies—and still regularly finds things in the bill she didn’t know were in there. Given that health care reform’s implementation process will take place over a 10-year period or more, there are likely to be additional surprises tucked away in the law’s roughly 2,000 pages.

Despite claims that reform would reduce health costs, Austin said that outcome was highly unlikely, given basic laws of supply and demand.

“Everyone is concerned about the influx of new patients,” she said. “That’s going to be a real challenge for the medical community. You created a ton of access without the supply” of new medical providers.

“To us, it looks like all they’re doing is increasing costs and putting the new burdens on business,” Austin said.

Business owners frustrated

Jodi Vanderhoof of Texarkana, who owns a landscaping service and garden center with her husband Jason, was equally frustrated.

While their garden center has grown to around 20 employees, she’s unsure how to manage future growth given the health care reform law’s employer mandates. She’s already giving up on the idea of providing health insurance to employees, because she’s concerned about increased costs and the maze of penalties, income reporting requirements and other traps that the reform law sets for business owners.

“It’s a disincentive because all of this is going to increase insurance rates” for small businesses, she explained. “We’ve always strived to grow to the point where we can afford to provide insurance to our employees, and I can’t see how we could ever do that now.”

Back to Lt. Gov. Darr’s amicus brief: He’ll reap scorn and derision from the usual quarters for grandstanding. But based on the very real concern among the people who are being affected by the law—not to mention the overall poll numbers—he’s unquestionably on the right side of the issue.

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