The President’s ‘fix’ for Obamacare
The White House’s urgent retreat came at the same time the French took a bold stand in Geneva, thereby rescuing the U.S. Secretary of State from himself as he tried to give away the store to the Iranians. I haven’t seen such role reversal since masculinity became passe.
To understand the Obamacare train wreck and retreat, you need to ask yourself how much political intrigue you like mixed in with your healthcare?
If you are a die-hard Obama supporter, you might resist such disloyal thoughts. Besides, it’s so easy to believe Republicans are evil for trying their dead-level best to unwind Obamacare. You may even have wrapped yourself in the warm fuzzies of believing the latest crisis over health insurance policy cancellations has been solved by the President’s announced accommodation at his press conference last Thursday.
But you would be wrong. That “solution” was just offering more Kool-Aid to true believers like you. I will explain if you can stand it.
As you may be aware, over 5 million citizens have had their healthcare insurance policies cancelled so far. These are the policies those citizens carefully selected and paid for, the policies the President said they could keep, along with their chosen doctor. Five million is just a good start, with a tidal wave of cancellations on the way.
The President counted on you true believers when he fraudulently sold Obamacare with, “If you like your insurance policy, you can keep your policy. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
But anyone paying close attention with a nominal dose of skepticism would have known those things have never been even remotely true. Obamacare depends, at its core, on cancellation of individual policies so people are compelled to buy new policies on the exchanges, where the higher premiums are desperately needed to subsidize other buyers.
Younger and healthier buyers are desperately needed since the premiums they pay, above and beyond the real cost of their policy, will help pay for the policies of the higher-risk older and sicker buyers, and to subsidize less wealthy buyers.
Welcome to paradise.
Caught in a pants-on-fire lie that too many voters actually care about because it affects them personally, the President then tried to spin his way out with “What we said was, you can keep your plan IF ...,” but that boyish attempt to dodge blame didn’t work. The media had finally awakened and recognized his lie about his lie.
I suppose the President could claim incompetence as a defense, especially since before this job he never ran anything as large as a hot dog stand, but the Obamacare plan anticipated mass cancellations from the get-go.
There is a very inconvenient Affordable Care Act report from 3.5 years ago dated July 19, 2010, just a few months after the President signed it into law, that anticipated between 40 percent and 67 percent of individual policies would be cancelled by losing their grandfathered status, thereby forcing those people onto the exchanges. That IRS report circulated to Health and Human Services, Treasury, Labor and all the policy wonks at the White House. There goes plausible deniability.
Another noted Democrat, Mario Cuomo, famously observed, “We campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose,” meaning after the campaign it is time to drop the hyperbole and manage in the real world in a way that earns voter trust.
The people surrounding Obama apparently don’t understand that wisdom, or why the wise executive under-promises and over-delivers; they are stuck in perpetual unprincipled campaign mode, instinctively spinning lies when caught lying, whether it is about Fast and Furious, Benghazi or Obamacare.
Care to hear about more Obamacare lies? Now that cancellations are a hot issue, spokesmen treat the number of cancellations as trivial collateral damage and claim Obamacare was all about improving the healthcare policy features for the 90 percent of Americans covered by their employer plans, not the 10 percent in the individual market receiving cancellations.
Well, it was never about that at all, but never mind.
Another campaign of lies spread throughout the Democratic Party and swallowed by the media includes the oft-repeated adjectives “substandard” or “junk” pinned to cancelled policies, claiming the policies you now own, the policies you might like a great deal, are not good for you while the new healthcare policies you are forced to buy are improved.
This is a classic example of why I fear most those enthusiastic about saving me.
The “substandard” argument is related to the spin that our healthcare system is broken and we must do something about it, thus Obamacare.
Well, who broke the healthcare system?
The truth is the cost of healthcare insurance policies have escalated out of control largely because of government.
Well-meaning state legislatures have piled on coverage requirements so in recent decades policies must cover things like mammography, minimum hospital stays for maternity or mastectomy, in vitro fertilization, mental issues, treatment for alcoholism and other addictions and even hair prosthesis.
It seems to be our nature to improve something until it collapses of its own weight, and that is what we are doing to healthcare insurance, which should be to cover the small chance of catastrophic medical expenses.
For every type of health service, someone will grind the ax and find bleeding hearts in their state legislature to push a bill adding a new mandate to healthcare policies in that state.
Insurance companies went along with the mandates because they can’t control pinheads in legislatures, and they just raised their rates to cover the cost.
Doctors went along because they focus on practicing medicine and get paid by insurance anyway.
Patients accepted the slightly higher cost of their portion of employer-provided policies, and the policies paid for their care.
Studies say state-mandated benefits resulted in premium increases ranging from 20-50 percent. In the 1960s there were few state mandates for healthcare insurance policies; now there are over 2,000, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.
On the low end, Idaho has just 13, on the top end, Rhode Island has 70. Every one of those mandates comes with procedures that carry a cost. All 50 states mandate mammography coverage and 15 mandate in vitro fertilization coverage. A few states mandate coverage for an athletic trainer, and a few mandate coverage for pastoral counseling.
Along the way, insurance carriers started placing limits on coverage, their method of self-preservation to contain the insanity.
No wonder healthcare insurance premiums have been escalating.
Comes now Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, promising Shangri-La at lower prices with a fistful of federal mandates for every healthcare policy.
You still believe, don’t you? If I haven’t lost you yet, please grit your teeth and take a realistic look at the President’s announced solution to policy cancellations.
Maybe you bought the story that President Obama was forced by public sentiment to act at his Thursday press conference, when he announced forbearance of part of the law so that you could, indeed, keep your existing plan for one more year.
But the real reason for that “accommodation” was to pre-empt Michigan’s Republican Fred Upton who sponsored a House of Representatives “Keep Your Plan” bill the next day, on Friday, allowing people to not only keep their existing plan, but also allowing further sale of those pre-Obamacare plans.
The bill passed with 39 Democratic defections, but the President’s action the day before was meant to prevent much deeper political losses.
There is more political calculus in the President’s waiver of pieces of the law. If people are allowed to keep their policies for another year, the escalating screams of outrage over cancellations will be postponed until after the 2014 mid-term elections next November.
Why do you think Obama waved his royal finger to postpone for a year the part of the law requiring employer mandates?
Here’s why – all the caterwauling from business about unacceptable cost increases, canceling employee coverage and turning millions of full-time employees into part-timers to avoid being subject to the law, will now be pushed past the 2014 mid-term elections.
You are being played like a fiddle.
There are other ugly consequences of Obamacare, like massive shifts of people into Medicaid, those with jobs and income up to four times the poverty level, creating trillions of dollars in new entitlements in a program that is already broke.
We haven’t even talked about the layers of new taxes coming next year, or the many boards who will decide how to allocate scarce resources, like MRIs or brain surgery, but don’t get me started because there is more to examine behind the President’s rosy claims about his “solution.”
There are two monumental obstacles to making the President’s solution a practical reality.
First, the healthcare insurance industry has been working for over three years preparing their insurance products for the requirements of Obamacare. Now, after all that change required to move their train in the direction Obama wanted, now he is telling them to turn on a dime, ignore parts of the law they have built into their infrastructure, and re-issue cancelled policies despite all the financial planning and calculations imbedded in their new healthcare products.
Any first-year business school student would see the folly in a heartbeat, even if the President had the authority to give direction to the insurance industry, which he does not.
While insurance industry officials and state insurance commissioners scramble to decide how to deal with this administrative and actuarial nightmare, and how it will increase premium costs, I would offer the second colossal reason the President’s imperial decree should not be taken seriously.
Whatever you think of Rep. Fred Upton’s bill that passed on Friday, surely headed for an Obama veto if it ever gets past the Senate, at least he had the virtue of acting legally.
Not so the President, whose duty is to enforce the law, not to tinker with it whenever he doesn’t like this or that part of a law.
Just as he has previously exceeded his authority, like selectively not enforcing part of established immigration law and then calling that system broken, he is outside his authority when he declares what pieces of Obamacare he will change by his personal whim. By our Constitution, laws are made and modified in Congress.
Finally, there is a practical reason Obama should not be allowed to tinker with any aspect of this law. The arrogance of the White House knowing best what is good for you and me is compounded by the sweeping deception throughout Obamacare, the lying, political maneuvers and marketplace stupidity.
You could collect from this President and those surrounding him all their knowledge about how to deal effectively with private enterprise, cram it into a peanut shell, and it would rattle like a BB in a boxcar.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen.]