Now that President Obama has signed into law the massive health care overhaul legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday night, it’s time to start noting what will no doubt be a fantastic series of unintended consequences of the legislation. Granted, I could probably turn this into a regular feature on the PowerBlog, akin to my series of Global Warming Consensus Alert posts. But I have a feeling that documenting the ongoing degradation of the health care sector in that manner would only lead to a radically deepening depression for me, so for the sake of my mental health I’ll just note the occasional bit of news on the matter without formalizing it.

First of all: Remember how this legislation was going to ensure that — starting this year — no child could be denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition? That was a big selling point for the President as recently as this past weekend, when Obama mentioned the provision in a Friday speech to an audience at George Mason University and on Saturday to Congressional Democrats. The only problem is that the provision wasn’t actually in the bill as sold by the President:

Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

No worries though, because it turns out that the Obama administration believes that the problem can be fixed by issuing some new regulations.

Late Tuesday, the administration said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would try to resolve the situation by issuing new regulations. The Obama administration interprets the law to mean that kids can’t be denied coverage, as the president has said repeatedly.

All I can say is that it’s reassuring that our gifted bureaucrats can issue arbitrary regulatory “fixes” to correct obvious flaws in the massive legislation that Congress rammed through on a series of late night and weekend votes after a year of shady backroom dealing and legislative bribery produced a bill that most members of congress likely can’t fully explain, probably haven’t even read in full, and the people opposed by a wide margin even after passage.

Your health care is in the very best of hands.

Another delightful bit of news: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a “staunch backer” of the legislation just signed by President Obama, has now been “rattled” by the new law because he apparently just now realized something that should have been perfectly obvious to even casual observers prior to passage of the bill:

A dire warning from Bay State medical-device companies that a new sales tax in the federal health-care law could force their plants – and thousands of jobs – out of the country has rattled Gov. Deval Patrick, a staunch backer of the law and pal President Obama.

“This bill is a jobs killer,” said Ernie Whiton, chief financial officer of Chelmsford’s Zoll Medical Corp., which employs about 650 people in Massachusetts. Many of those employees work in Zoll’s local manufacturing facility making heart defibrillators.

“We could be forced to (move) manufacturing overseas if we can’t pass along these costs to our customers,” said Whiton.

The threat – echoed by others in the critical Massachusetts industry – had the governor vowing to intervene to block the sales tax impact.

“I am obviously concerned about the medical device burden here on the commonwealth, which has a very robust industry around medical devices,” Patrick said yesterday.

Well thanks! It would have been nice if you would have thought through the consequences of your support before Congress decided to pass this monstrosity, but better late than never, I suppose.

Enough for now. I’m off to go celebrate this exciting new era in which we can all be free to be artists, or photographers, or (ahem) writers without worrying about health insurance costs. Hey, Nancy Pelosi said it, and her word is like gold!

  • http://www.acton.org John Couretas

    AT&T will take $1B non-cash charge for health care

    NEW YORK – AT&T Inc. said Friday it will take a $1 billion non-cash charge in the first quarter related to the health care overhaul.

    AT&T’s charge is the largest announced so far. Earlier this week, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co. and Valero Energy announced similar accounting charges, saying the health care law that President Barack Obama signed Tuesday will raise their expenses.

    AT&T said the charge is to reflect the change of the tax treatment of Medicare subsidies. Companies say the health care overhaul will make a subsidy that companies receive for retiree drug coverage taxable in 2011.

    AT&T also said it is looking into changing the health care benefits it offers to active and retired workers because of the legislation. Analysts say retirees could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers.

    AT&T rival Verizon Communications Inc. was among 10 companies that sent a letter to congressional leaders in December warning that their costs would increase with the health care changes. Verizon did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

  • http://www.acton.org John Couretas

    New York Times, March 29, 2010
    Companies Push to Repeal Provision of Health Law

    An association representing 300 large corporations urged President Obama and Congress on Monday to repeal a provision of the health care overhaul that prompted AT&T, Caterpillar and other companies to announce substantial charges for the current quarter.

    The association, the American Benefits Council, said the provision — which reduces the tax deductions for companies with drug coverage for their retired employees — would deal a significant blow to corporate profits and would discourage companies from hiring more workers.

    AT&T announced last week that it was taking a $1 billion charge because of the provision. Deere & Company announced a $150 million charge, Caterpillar a $100 million charge, and 3M a $90 million charge.

    Many companies said they were taking these charges now, before the current quarter ended, to comply with accounting rules. But some corporate critics asserted that the companies’ rapid response to the health legislation was aimed at pressing the administration to repeal the provision.

    James A. Klein, the president of the American Benefits Council, called the provision “a serious mistake that is having negative and unintended consequences.”

    White House officials defended the provision, saying it was a deliberate effort to eliminate what they said was an unusually generous tax loophole.

    More >>>

  • Marc Vander Maas

    Don’t worry, John: Congressman Henry Waxman is ON THE CASE!

  • http://www.acton.org John Couretas

    On the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog, there’s good stuff on the fallout from the health care bill. See especially “Morning Bell: $1 Billion AT&T Headache is Just Obamacare’s First Side Effect.” And this fun vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zANYbGrmft0