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Cato economist says only certainty in Obamacare is ‘utter chaos’

By   /   February 19, 2013  /   2 Comments

TALKING POINTS: Kansas Health Institute CEO Robert St. Peter introduces, from left, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Scott Brunner and Kari Bruffett to discuss the potential cost of the Affordable Care Act in Kansas.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

TOPEKA — With President Obama’s Affordable Care Act no longer in doubt, state governments are working furiously to get a handle on what it will mean to expand healthcare to millions of Americans.

In Kansas, the debate has spurred a handful of studies from an array of organizations, each reading the proverbial tea leaves and developing their own conclusion. But with so many experts offering such varied predictions, very little is actually certain.

“What’s going to happen is utter chaos,” said Jagadeesh Gokhale, senior fellow with the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.

Speaking before a crowd of legislators, media and policy analysts on Tuesday, Gokhale was joined by Scott Brunner, senior analyst for the Kansas Health Institute, and Kari Bruffett, director of the Division of Public Health for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The panel discussed the myriad studies attempting to estimate the potential costs of implementing the ACA, as well as expanding Medicaid, in the Sunflower state.

Studies conducted by KHI, Lewin Group, United Health and others offer differing price projections, primarily because of the many variables that go into calculating who is eligible and who is likely to join the state-sponsored healthcare program.

For Kansas, base changes mandated by the ACA over the next six years could cost anywhere from $170 million to $740 million, while the optional Medicaid expansion could run between $1.9 billion  and $5.4 billion, depending on who you ask.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about even how it’s going to be implemented, whether you choose expansion or not,” said Brunner.

“They (the studies) vary quite a bit, depending on the key assumptions that you make,” he added.

While Bruffett agreed that there’s no way to be sure when dealing with so many variables, she said each study, especially KDHE’s, was conducted using the most recent available data; figures weren’t exactly plucked out of thin air, but instead project an educated guess using the best available information.

Gokhale said he expects chaos to erupt from individuals choosing to pay fines rather than sign up for health insurance, and only choosing to do so when a need arises. He offered a final caution on the cost studies: Even the most pessimistic projections assume nothing goes wrong, and that the federal government makes good on its funding promises.

Whether or not that happens is yet to be seen.

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62.

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.

  • http://affordablehealthcareactpenalties.com/ AHAP

    The reason no one can come up with solid cost figures is because they never bothered to finish the bill. When reading the bill, the phrase “As the Secretary shall determine” is more prevalent than any solid decisions. Good thing they passed it before we could read it. The next 90 days are crucial. The roaches are going to scatter once the lights are turned on. No one knows what’s in this bill or how it’s going to affect them, and I’m not even talking about the Low Info Voters. 90-95% of the voting-eligible persons in this country doesn’t have a clue how bad this is going to be.

    This Act can still be defeated if the american public decides not to participate. It really is that simple.

  • libertyandfreedom

    I am concerned that, like the military, we are losing the infrostructure to keep our free market insurance system. A large group health insurance agency in Wichita went from 175 employees to 30. The remainging 30 only do claims processing. There are no agents left. We are losing expertise to navigate insurance decisions. Insurance companies are also focusing on claims processing for the government at the expense of new product offerings. We need to repeal Obamacare at our earliest opportunity and the states are the leaders in fighting its expansion.