By: Colin Fuess
At the 2011 CPAC, the Heartland Institute handed out free copies of The Obamacare Disaster: an Appraisal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Heartland Policy Study #128). The study was written by Peter Ferrara, whose curriculum vitae is quite respectable. The author of numerous articles in The Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, and Forbes, Mr. Ferrara has written reports for the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and served as a senior staff member in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan and as associate deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Those who received Mr. Ferrara’s The Obamacare Disaster at CPAC have good reason to trust his work. While The Obamacare Disaster as a whole provides sound analysis of the Affordable Care Act, on the very first page is a particularly troubling sentence: “Most of the bill’s provisions, except its taxes, do no go into effect until 2014.” On this fundamental point, Ferrara is flat-out wrong.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ website about the Affordable Care Act (www.HealthCare.gov) explicitly contradicts Ferrara. From the page “Timeline of the Affordable Care Act” (http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/index.html): “The law puts in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that will roll out over four years and beyond, with most changes taking place by 2014.” The detailed timeline shows that 38 major reforms will come into effect between 2010 and 2013. In 2014 and beyond, just 10 reforms will take effect.
Many of the hallmark reforms will be implemented in 2014, such as the infamous individual mandate, the elimination of annual limits on insurance coverage, the establishing of health insurance exchanges, and so on. One could successfully argue that the most important reforms don’t go into effect until 2014, but that’s a qualitative assessment. Ferrara’s statement, however, is quantitative. Numerically speaking, he says, more provisions go into effect before 2014 than in 2014 and beyond.
Given the quality of the rest of Obamacare Disaster, Ferrara’s mistake probably was an honest one. Because his entire book is a scholarly forecast of Obamacare’s dire consequences, it would make no sense to open with a broad generalization that effectively neuters the sense of urgency he tries to instill in the reader. But as a rule, disseminating misinformation free of charge to thousands of willing and eager readers at a major political event is dangerous.
I will go out a limb and say almost everyone who attended CPAC thinks Obamacare is and will be a disaster. Their minds are already made up. It is good for an accomplished and respected writer like Ferrara to provide them legitimate analysis that they would not easily find elsewhere. But people like to read and hear what confirms their beliefs (in psychology, this is know as confirmation bias). If a person at CPAC dislikes Obamacare and someone hands that person “literature” about how awful Obamacare is, that person agrees with the literature before reading it. In this way, people are extremely vulnerable to flagrant lies, and unfortunately, not everyone is as well-meaning as Mr. Ferrara.
Buyer beware, even if it is free.