Health Care Law Allows Open Season on No Bid Contracts

ObamaCare, in its most basic form, has essentially ushered in nationalized health care. Welcome to the era of "no bid" contracts with huge health insurance companies. In West Virginia, Democratic Governor and United States Senate candidate Joe Manchin has determined that his administration does not need to allow for competitive bidding to run portions of the state's Medicaid program. Six hundred million dollars in government contracts was handed out to three private health insurers at the end of September. West Virginia's commissioner of the Bureau for Medical Services, Nancy Atkins, responded to criticism by announcing, "There is no better deal to be found by bidding the contracts."

Once the big insurers only have to curry favor with politicians and bureaucrats, the last incentive they would ever have to actually improve service and provide products people want and can afford disappears.

Welcome to the era of special favors for big businesses and the well-connected at the expense of "working-class Americans." The devastating effect of the health care law on the ability of businesses to continue to offer health insurance to their employees is coming clearer every day. Some of the nation's biggest employers took over $4.5 billion in charges against earnings in the first weeks after passage due to new taxes on retiree health benefits. Manufacturing giant 3M is dropping retiree coverage completely. And "protections" for lower-income workers has jeopardized insurance availability for millions.

So it should not be surprising that the Obama administration, using the expansive authority to pick winners and losers at every level in health care, has arbitrarily exempted thirty companies and unions from actually complying with the law. The rest of us, and apparently the one million affected workers, are merely pawns on the chessboard.

The era of guaranteed "cost plus" contracts for huge private health insurers has begun. The health care law calls for explicit spending of 80 to 85 cents of every health care premium dollar on health care services. Frantic lobbying began, even before the law was passed, for major insurers to be able to include as much as possible in the definition of "health care services." And the final determination of what will qualify is still up in the air.

The administration has already announced that the rules will be "flexible." The same arbitrary capriciousness that governs who must follow the other ObamaCare rules will also apply here.  And since the premium increases in the future exchanges can be modulated to ensure the financial stability of the health insurance companies, whatever initial rules are put in place will apparently be only guidelines.

So-called "consumer protections," for which there was such a moral urgency during the health care debate, apparently have a limited shelf life as well. The "lifetime limit" provision, which states that health insurance policies can have no upper limit on how much they will pay, jeopardized so many workers' plans for 2011 that the Obama administration had to give waivers, effectively throwing one million workers under the bus. All the while, the unions and big businesses that lobbied well and curried favor with the new health care overlords get to avoid the rules the rest of us must follow.

No bid contracts, payoffs to political pals, exempting friends from enforcing rules to help workers, and blatantly ignoring the plain intent of Congress -- that is the legacy of Obamacare so far. How embarrassing, sad, and dangerous for an American public that believes overwhelmingly that health care decisions should belong to patients and families, not politicians.

Eric Novack, M.D. is the chairman of the U.S. Health Freedom Coalition and chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom.
ObamaCare, in its most basic form, has essentially ushered in nationalized health care. Welcome to the era of "no bid" contracts with huge health insurance companies. In West Virginia, Democratic Governor and United States Senate candidate Joe Manchin has determined that his administration does not need to allow for competitive bidding to run portions of the state's Medicaid program. Six hundred million dollars in government contracts was handed out to three private health insurers at the end of September. West Virginia's commissioner of the Bureau for Medical Services, Nancy Atkins, responded to criticism by announcing, "There is no better deal to be found by bidding the contracts."

Once the big insurers only have to curry favor with politicians and bureaucrats, the last incentive they would ever have to actually improve service and provide products people want and can afford disappears.

Welcome to the era of special favors for big businesses and the well-connected at the expense of "working-class Americans." The devastating effect of the health care law on the ability of businesses to continue to offer health insurance to their employees is coming clearer every day. Some of the nation's biggest employers took over $4.5 billion in charges against earnings in the first weeks after passage due to new taxes on retiree health benefits. Manufacturing giant 3M is dropping retiree coverage completely. And "protections" for lower-income workers has jeopardized insurance availability for millions.

So it should not be surprising that the Obama administration, using the expansive authority to pick winners and losers at every level in health care, has arbitrarily exempted thirty companies and unions from actually complying with the law. The rest of us, and apparently the one million affected workers, are merely pawns on the chessboard.

The era of guaranteed "cost plus" contracts for huge private health insurers has begun. The health care law calls for explicit spending of 80 to 85 cents of every health care premium dollar on health care services. Frantic lobbying began, even before the law was passed, for major insurers to be able to include as much as possible in the definition of "health care services." And the final determination of what will qualify is still up in the air.

The administration has already announced that the rules will be "flexible." The same arbitrary capriciousness that governs who must follow the other ObamaCare rules will also apply here.  And since the premium increases in the future exchanges can be modulated to ensure the financial stability of the health insurance companies, whatever initial rules are put in place will apparently be only guidelines.

So-called "consumer protections," for which there was such a moral urgency during the health care debate, apparently have a limited shelf life as well. The "lifetime limit" provision, which states that health insurance policies can have no upper limit on how much they will pay, jeopardized so many workers' plans for 2011 that the Obama administration had to give waivers, effectively throwing one million workers under the bus. All the while, the unions and big businesses that lobbied well and curried favor with the new health care overlords get to avoid the rules the rest of us must follow.

No bid contracts, payoffs to political pals, exempting friends from enforcing rules to help workers, and blatantly ignoring the plain intent of Congress -- that is the legacy of Obamacare so far. How embarrassing, sad, and dangerous for an American public that believes overwhelmingly that health care decisions should belong to patients and families, not politicians.

Eric Novack, M.D. is the chairman of the U.S. Health Freedom Coalition and chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom.