President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul became law four years ago this week. In that time, Obamacare headlines have mostly revolved around litigation and legislative challenges, implementation failures and the White House’s decision to impose several damage-control delays. As Democrats sweat Obamacare ahead of the 2014 midterms, the American Action Forum has marked the Obamacare birthday with a new report detailing the healthcare law’s massive economic and labor costs.
In its report, the conservative policy organization concluded that Obamacare regulatory burdens since the law took effect are 2.5 times higher than its benefits.
From a summary of the American Action Forum’s report:
After four years of implementation, countless delays, a website disaster, and constant litigation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its inauspicious birthday this week. From a regulatory perspective, the law has imposed more than $27.2 billion in total private sector costs, $8 billion in unfunded state burdens, and more than 159 million paperwork hours on local governments and affected entities. What’s more troubling, the law has generated just $2.6 billion in annualized benefits, compared to $6.8 billion in annualized costs.
A big factor adding to the overall Obamacare cost, according to the report, is the additional 159 million paperwork hours that public and private institutions have been burdened with because of the healthcare law. The report notes that the “equally transformational” reforms that took place in the financial world under Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley legislation required a combined paperwork burden of only about 71 million hours.
And you can bet that the additional paperwork burden of cabinet-level agencies is costing taxpayers. The Department of Health and Human Services handles about 90 million hours more of paperwork today than it did in 2010. The Treasury Department saw a 23 percent increase in the amount of paperwork it handles in the same period, from 6.3 billion to more than 7.8 billion hours.
“To put the ACA’s paperwork burdens in perspective, it would take 79,518 employees (more than the population of Napa, California) working 2,000 hours annually to complete the ACA’s paperwork mandates,” American Action Policy Director Sam Batkins wrote of the report. “These burdens obviously cost states and private entities time and money, which could otherwise be devoted to productivity, not regulatory compliance.”
While the employer mandate is the most easily recognizable Obamacare burden on small business, the report details a number of lesser-known costly rules associated with the healthcare law.
For instance, a proposal to require nutrition labeling on restaurant menus comes with a price tag of $757.1 million and 622,000 paperwork hours. A similar proposal affecting vending machines racks up $423.1 million in costs to small-business owners and 842,000 hours’ worth of paperwork.
Last year alone, according to the report, Obamacare burdened the economy with $4.5 billion in additional costs and 48 million additional paperwork hours.
And barring significant reforms, the American Action Forum says that Americans “can expect similar results in 2015.”
More from the American Action Forum report.