Study: O-Care costs outweigh benefits

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On the fourth anniversary of ObamaCare, a new study finds that the costs of complying with the president's signature healthcare law far outweigh the coverage benefits it provides.

The conservative American Action Forum (AAF), which is often critical of the Obama administration, released a study Monday that estimates the regulatory costs have totaled $27.2 billion since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010.

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On average, the regulatory costs add up to $6.8 billion each year, while the benefits account for $2.6 billion annually.

"Without significant reforms, expect similar results in 2015," said Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the AAF, who wrote the study.

The AAF study used government cost estimates from rules that were published in the Federal Register to compile the report. Proposed rules, which have not yet been finalized and could change, accounted for $2.2 billion of the total costs.

A spokesman for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said the AAF report should be taken with a "grain of salt," because it doesn't account for all of the benefits these ObamaCare rules provide.

The study found 11 regulations stemming from ObamaCare that are considered "economically significant."

Much of the costs come from the millions of hours that companies and government agencies spend on paperwork complying with the law. ObamaCare has imposed almost three times as much paperwork as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the study found.

"At more than 159 million paperwork hours, the ACA is in a class by itself," Batkins wrote. "To date, Dodd-Grank, an equally transformational law, has imposed 'only' 60 million hours of paperwork."

The AAF estimates it would take nearly 80,000 full-time employees to keep up with ObamaCare's paperwork requirements. 

"These burdens obviously cost states and private entities time and money, which could otherwise be devoted to productivity, not regulatory compliance," Batkins wrote.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury Department have seen two of the biggest upticks in paperwork hours, according to the study.

The Health Department's paperwork hours have increased by about 90 million hours since 2010, to 631 million hours currently.  Treasury's paperwork hours have jumped 23 percent to $7.8 billion.

The report estimates small businesses spend 40.2 million paperwork hours each year in complying with one specific reporting requirement, while a Medicaid eligibility changes rule accounts for 21.3 million paperwork hours, and the individual mandate accounts for 7.5 million paperwork hours. 

The Food and Drug Administration issued two of the most expensive rules in the report. A proposed menu labeling rule would cost $757 million in compliance costs, according to the report, while a proposed vending machine labeling rule would cost $423 million. 

Beyond the regulatory costs to businesses, people have also had to comply with the individual mandate. The AAF estimates that 36 million people will spend 12.6 minutes each complying with the rules.