Obamacare: And Then a Miracle Happens
So the administration has delayed implementation of the employer mandate for one year in what must be a desperate move to avoid an immediate train wreck, a tacit acknowledgment that the mandate is unworkable, or a shrewd and/or cynical political move to get safely past the 2014 election cycle, depending on which theory you find most plausible.
But none of this should cause any of us to doubt that the complete Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ultimately triumph and become a beloved part of our Way of Life, deeply appreciated by a grateful citizenry, right?
Let us put aside for a moment the fact that regarding ObamaCare, most Americans have no clue what they are supposed to do or what the law is going to do to them, even though the individual mandate is still officially to go into effect in January and the exchanges are supposed to launch just three months from now (and that's a big "supposed"; try contacting your state insurance department or the HHS and asking for specifics). Never mind that the estimated price tag for the exchanges has doubled since last year to $4.4 billion. Pay no attention to the absurdity of using Hollywood and sports celebrities, none of whom will ever be caught dead in an ObamaCare clinic, to sell young, healthy people on the idea that it's cool to spend money (that they don't have because they can't find jobs in Obama's economy) on inflated health insurance premiums to subsidize their older, sicker compatriots.
Don't worry about the complex software, electronic medical records, and other technology required to make all of this work as smoothly as bidding for dirt-cheap travel on Priceline or Orbitz.com. Trust your friends at the IRS and HHS to enforce compliance fairly and kindly.
After all, these are all mere sideshows, normal growing pains of any large project. Nobody said it would be easy, right? Keep our eyes on the Big Picture. In the end, we're all going to love it and thank Obama, Reid, and Pelosi many times over for their great visionary wisdom, compassion, and courage.
To achieve enlightenment on why this is so, we can examine a few of the actual discrete elements of the program.
For instance, ObamaCare mandates that insurance companies may not discriminate on the basis of industry or the health of employees (with the exception of smokers) to set premiums for company plans. Good, right? Discrimination is bad, and non-discrimination is good in the Kindergarten of Eden (thank you, Evan Sayet). Of course, if you happen to be a small company in a low-health risk industry that employs mostly younger workers, your premiums will have to rise to compensate higher-risk industries and/or older employees. Not more affordable for you.
You have to spend 10% of your taxable income on medical care before you get a tax break under ObamaCare, whereas the threshold used to be 7.5%. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) similarly receive more unfavorable treatment under the new law than before. How any of that makes health care more affordable to anyone who pays income taxes has not been explained.
Medical device manufacturers are taxed at 2.3 percent of gross sales. This obviously raises the cost of medical devices, inhibits investment in innovation to produce the next generation of life-saving gadgets, and puts domestic manufacturers at a disadvantage relative to foreign ones (giant sucking sound of jobs heading offshore, anyone?). This may seem like not quite a step in the affordability direction until you realize that the $29 billion that the government expects to collect from the tax will be much more wisely spent than it would be by the greedy profit-mongers, and therefore will lead to more affordability on the other side, somehow. Good thing the tax is still in force in spite of 33 Democrat senators joining 45 Republicans to repeal it.
Sarcasm aside, to believe that ObamaCare will all work out in the end is to believe that the whole is not only greater than the sum of the parts, but 180 degrees the polar opposite of the sum of the parts.
In the fields of science and information technology, numerous cartoonists have produced variations of a confusing process design diagram, with dozens or hundreds of geometric shapes connected by crisscrossing lines, swimlanes, and arrows, and including at least one module labeled "Then a miracle happens." That is what we are being expected to believe: that in spite of ObamaCare's unprecedented massive complexity and every discrete thing that it actually does, it's going to turn out for the best for everyone (or at least Democrat voters and office-holders) in the end.
Rather than accept this proposition like sheep, perhaps we should pay attention to the fact that the weak fines and guaranteed issue for patients with pre-existing conditions are unlikely to persuade people to pony up the premiums in advance. We might consider that increasing numbers of unions, normally reliable allies of Obama and the Democratic Party, are partnering with their erstwhile adversaries in business to oppose portions if not the entirety of the law, because they see how it is hurting their worker members. (Per Sally Pipes: "Union firms and workers will have to shoulder the entire cost of their health plans -- while their non-union competitors will be able to get subsidized coverage through the exchanges." Oops.) Maybe there's something to the story that there are 99 things that have to happen in the next (less than) 99 days in order to guarantee a successful launch, assuming that that's desirable (see Sarah Kilff writing for the right-wing Washington Post).
The fact is, these are not just accidents or normal growing pains, but the inevitable consequences of excessively complex legislation born of corrupt politics and no sound economic principles. Perhaps the majority of Americans, who now disapprove of the law, are on to something.
Howard Hyde is author of Pull the Plug on Obamacare, available on Amazon.com in Paperback and Kindle editions. He is editor of the website www.HHCapitalism.com. He may be reached at HHCapitalism@gmail.com, and/or follow on Twitter @HowardHyde.