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No doc for Mama

By Matt Towery Lately, even the most elite in media have started to report some of the intended and unintended consequences of the rushed and ill-conceived federal health care bill passed earlier this year by the Barack Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress. And I’ve had my first eye-opener. Like everyone of their generation, my parents automatically qualify for Medicare. Soon after the new health care bill passed, their personal physician retired. When they set about looking for a new one, they kept hearing the same refrain: “We are no longer accepting new patients.” Why? Because while Congress fashioned a massive – and massively expensive – new health care program, they have also allowed Medicare reimbursements to physicians to be reduced. Many seniors have physicians who are their contemporaries because they’ve been under their care for many years. As these older physicians retire, their patients are scrambling to find replacements. They’re encountering “do not apply” signs on the doors of medical facilities. Now that’s change you can believe in. Next comes the unfolding realization that the new law is stocked with all sorts of little gems that are destined to make life harder for the young and those still working. For example, many small businesses already dread the annual task of creating 1099 tax forms for those individual contractors they pay each year for goods and services. Apparently they now also will be required to issue similar forms to every corporation, vendor or other party they pay during the taxable year. As interpreted by many, the new law suggests the need for, say, a local hardware store to search out the tax identification number of huge corporations they pay for products or services. If this interpretation of the law is correct, and it’s truly enforced, business in America will be ground to a halt by a cascade of paperwork. Also in the coming months, all types of entities touched by the new financial reform laws will suddenly learn that they are required to comply with new bureaucratic rules related to the ethnicity, or other demographic profiles, of their employees. Maybe this is well-intended, but once again the burden of compliance will be staggering. There’s more. Under the guise of a “watered down” climate bill, there could soon be plenty of opportunities to add even more costs to American businesses. Ultimately, those costs will be passed on to consumers, of course. Take the example of the possible ramifications of requiring energy companies to generate specific percentages of their total energy output from wind, solar and other non-traditional sources. The goals being put forth are unattainable, and the inefficiencies and high costs of trying to reach them anyway will only result in higher energy bills for all. And government subsidies to support these new energy sources will mean tax dollars being wasted. There has been a mad rush to pass all these half-baked pieces of legislation. Now, as the devilish details start to emerge, it’s becoming clear that these new laws will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans. The past provides examples of how poorly designed legislation can eventually lead to sad results. Recall that lovely deal cut by congressional Republicans when they passed the “Bush tax cuts.” In a compromise effort designed to gain passage of the cuts, the GOP agreed to sunset them in 2010. They even went so far as to gradually reduce the so-called death tax to virtually nothing in the year 2010, only to allow it to revert to its punitive original percentages in 2011. So not only does it stand to reason that mama and daddy can’t find a physician. It also stands to reason that their kids might not want them to find one, thanks to the onerous “death tax” penalties if those parents live beyond this year! (Yes, I’m kidding, but this shows a perversity of the coming tax laws.) This demonstrates that the Republicans of the Bush years could pass legislation just as stupid as anything that’s been passed by Democrats this year. But there’s a difference. The GOP passed bad laws out of sloppiness, and from the presumption that they would remain in power for the foreseeable future. The legislation emerging from the current Congress and the Obama administration apparently has a different motive. The Democrats seem less concerned with keeping power in the long run and more concerned about altering every feature of the economic landscape before the nation wakes up to the realization that we have been buried under an avalanche of paper, forced to look for physicians that aren’t available or are just plain out of business. Matt Towery heads the polling firm InsiderAdvantage.

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