The best way to fix this fundamentally broken law is to repeal it and replace it with common sense, step-by-step solutions that put states not Washington in charge to act as 50 laboratories of innovation.
We should start by first relieving states of the massive fiscal burdens imposed by a relentlessly expanding Medicaid entitlement. Indeed, governors of both political parties were clear when Congress debated the $2.6 trillion health law that they could not afford a massive expansion in Medicaid. Washington didn't listen and plowed forward instead by putting 16 million Americans onto this already broken entitlement.
States are already facing a collective $175 billion budget shortfall – the highest since the Great Depression. According to a report by the Senate Finance and House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans, the massive Medicaid expansion put in place by this White House is going to cost state taxpayers at least $118 billion, undermining any attempt by governors to balance their budgets. Furthermore, for all of the talk about state flexibility, this federal one-size-fits-all law leaves Washington calling the shots.
Let's take a look at Utah. Utah's health system ranks among the best in the country. It is one of two states with an exchange that provides flexibility and that allows the free market to provide a portal for Utahns to shop for insurance. All insurance carriers are welcome and benefit requirements are affordable.
In fact, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius likes to cite Utah's exchange in arguing that the health law gives states flexibility. But here's what she's not saying: Under ObamaCare, Utah's exchange will not exist. That's right; it will not meet the new Washington-dictated requirements.
In a nod to states balking at the federal requirements being imposed on them, the president recently announced that states could apply for waivers from the health law in 2014 – three years earlier than was in the health law. Sounds good – but the hitch is that states will still have to meet all of the ObamaCare requirements. That's why this proposal landed with a thud with governors.
Not only has Obamacare sidelined the states, it has threatened the long-term sustainability of Medicare. This program is broken and will be insolvent within the next 10 years. But instead of reforming it to ensure it's not another empty promise to our children and grandchildren, the White House used it as a piggy bank to fund this law – all while simultaneously claiming that they were putting it on more solid footing. That kind of gimmick wouldn't pass muster in a second-grade math class.
One year later and you don't need a Ph.D. in economics to know that this law is a budget-buster that raises taxes, increases already out-of-control health costs, puts Washington in charge all while putting our already fragile entitlements on an even worse fiscal footing.
Orrin Hatch is a U.S. senator for Utah.