February 5 2013
There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to buy health insurance. In fact, most people choose to do so already and find that, when medical bills come to be paid, it's helpful to have an insurance company to bear some of the cost.
But health insurance has been evolving for some time, changing from true "insurance" - a contractual arrangement that kicks in with benefits in the event of an unanticipated expense - to a third-party financing tool for any interaction with the health care system. Mandated coverage, overregulation, and manipulations of the tax code brought on this change, and ObamaCare will only double down on our current system by making an unholy alliance of government and insurance companies.
Today, there are something like 50 million people in our country without insurance. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that after 10 years of ObamaCare, there will still be 30 million people without insurance. That may be a hopeful estimate, given the number of states who won't expand Medicaid, and given the number of employers who will find insurance benefits under OabamCare to be not worth the trouble.
How can this be? Isn't everyone required to buy insurance? Well, for one thing, ObamaCare has at least eight different categorical exceptions from the individual mandate, including an exception for people too poor to afford insurance (and premiums are only going up). And the law's "guaranteed issue" provision is a game-changer for many thinking young adults, who recognize that paying a penalty (for disobedience to the mandate) is cheaper than buying robust, required, comprehensive health insurance... And because insurers must sell to anyone at anytime, these youth can always buy insurance in the event they face a health problem later. Insurers can't use health or insurance histories to set premiums.
Some have suggested that this problem might be solved by raising the penalty. If the cost of disobeying the law is higher, maybe more people will choose insurance over the penalty (I mean, tax).
But now Obama's allies are up to something else: Using their "Organizing for Action" group (Obama's campaign vehicle) to start "Enroll America" - essentially a campaign to encourage people to buy health insurance. They're doing this to protect the law's reputation. Think how bad it would look if they raised taxes by $1 trillion (over then years), spent $1.7 trillion (over ten years), cut Medicare by $700 billion (over ten years)... and had little to show for it besides more crowding in emergency rooms, higher premiums, and handful of additional Medicaid enrollees to count as "newly insured."
And all that money is on the books! Now, poltiical groups are joining forces with "Business Forward," a corporate alliance of pro-ObamaCare companies (giant ones, to be sure, who won't be harmed by red tape but will benefit when their smaller competitors die out), to push individuals to sign up for insurance, even if it's not a smart financial move for them after all.
If only I could go back to candidate Obama in 2008, railing against the use of secret, corporate money in politics. How ugly it is when big business supports a political agenda! Alas, five short years later, our dear post-partisan leader has proved himself not to be above the wheeling and dealing of whatever it takes to protect his legacy and make his law look good.
My first thought was "Ha! When this group figures out how to coax millions of Americans into making a decision that goes against their own interests, let me know how they did it!" But then I stopped laughing, because remember, this is Obama's campaign team... clearly they've already figured this out.