By Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal
Tomorrow (March 23) marks the one-year anniversary of the president signing Obamacare into law. The majority of the major provisions aren’t set to go into effect until 2014, but the harmful effects are already starting to surface. If something is not done soon to stop Obamacare from full implementation, its negative impact will be even more destructive across the board.
No one is above the law, and we must follow federal law even when we disagree. As a constitutionalist and a conservative, I believe firmly in the rule of law. As such, Georgia will prepare for implementation of this federal law even as we continue to fight against Obamacare all the way to the Supreme Court. Currently, our case is before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after our great victory in a federal district court in Florida.
My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia. I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. In 2009, I was the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, and I was the first congressman to say on the floor that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.
With Georgia now facing mandates with crippling price tags for its taxpayers, I’m seeing firsthand the job-destroying effects of the federal government’s overreach. No one would confuse me for an advocate of the law.
It should come as no surprise that I fully support congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare. But with that effort stalled in the Democratic Senate, some of my House GOP friends have discussed simply cutting off the money for its implementation. While I share their concerns about the disastrous effect Obamacare will have on our economy and personal freedoms, Washington cannot simply defund it without rescinding its hurtful mandates. Otherwise, these mandates will be passed on to the states to become the most burdensome, suffocating taxes on the American public in the history of this country. Unlike the federal government, states are unable to print greenbacks or borrow money from the Chinese government to cover deficits. Most states, including ours, require balanced budgets.
The costs associated with implementation are enormous and difficult to gauge. The only way we can calculate the cost is to examine the requirements of the law and then look at how the federal and state governments are expected to divide the costs.
If federal taxes were raised to cover the true costs of new healthcare spending — one estimate has it at more than $82 billion — Georgians’ federal tax obligations would rise $2 billion a year. That’s $200 for every man, woman and child in the state (meaning the bill is actually much higher for the people who actually pay income taxes).
Georgians would see their state tax burdens rise significantly as well. Georgia taxpayers would have to fork over, at a minimum, an additional $465 million per year to pay for a dramatic expansion of our state Medicaid program that is required by the new law. For Georgia families, this translates to an annual increase of approximately $1,000 per household. With so many families struggling to make ends meet, these extra costs would be nothing short of debilitating.
To cover some of the costs of Medicaid expansion and the mandated insurance exchange, Obamacare reduces the rate of reimbursement to doctors and other providers significantly. This reduction in reimbursement may affect the number of doctors who accept Medicaid patients, seriously impacting patient access at a time when demand will skyrocket. In fact, the estimated 1.2 million Georgians who will become covered through Medicaid and insurance exchanges have been projected to generate an additional 1.2 to 2 million physicians visits per year. This translates into a shortfall of 300-400 providers in Georgia.
Not only will costs rise for individuals, families and physicians, but the State Health Benefit Plan will also take a hit. Because the health care law requires employers to cover dependents up to age 26, the state and its employees will share a 12 percent cost increase. Other mandates, such as having to re-insure retirees until they reach Medicare age, will put tens of millions of dollars of new costs on the state as an employer.
With one year of Obamacare under our belts, we can already see mandates crunching our state budget – and the bottom lines of our state’s job creators in the private sector. The worst is yet to come. An anniversary is always a good time to renew our vows, even if we’re vowing to keep up the fight.
Nathan Deal is the governor of Georgia.