Human Events Blog

The ObamaCare death spiral continues

Last spring, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was challenged on President Obama’s no-longer-operable promise to Americans that “if you like your existing health coverage, you can keep it.”  The challenge came from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), who observed that you jolly well can’t keep your beloved existing plan if your employer freaks out over the costs imposed by ObamaCare mandates, and decides not to offer it any more.

Sebelius replied, “It wouldn’t have mattered if we had passed the Affordable Care Act or not.  The private market is in a death spiral.”

On the contrary, as many of us churlish right-wing types noted at the time, it’s ObamaCare that is locked in a death spiral, and it has been since the day it was passed.  The damned thing started falling apart the moment it crawled out of Congress.  Major portions of it have simply ceased to exist; other components are not performing anywhere near the way they were supposed to.  The initial cost estimates proved to be ridiculous fantasies, abetted by no small amount of fraudulent accounting.  And for many Americans, the “Affordable Care Act” is making health care substantially less affordable… if they can still get coverage at all.

For example, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday that “some families could get priced out of health insurance due to what’s being called a ‘glitch’ in President Barack Obama’s overhaul law.”  Here’s how it works, or rather doesn’t work:

The problem seems to be the way the law defined affordable.

Congress said affordable coverage can’t cost more than 9.5 percent of family income. People with coverage the law considers affordable cannot get subsidies to go into the new insurance markets. The purpose of that restriction was to prevent a stampede away from employer coverage.

Congress went on to say that what counts as affordable is keyed to the cost of self-only coverage offered to an individual worker, not his or her family. A typical workplace plan costs about $5,600 for an individual worker. But the cost of family coverage is nearly three times higher, about $15,700, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

So if the employer isn’t willing to chip in for family premiums _ as most big companies already do _ some families will be out of luck. They may not be able to afford the full premium on their own, and they’d be locked out of the subsidies in the health care overhaul law.

The genius central planners who inflicted this disaster on America thought the IRS would wave this problem away through regulation, but the agency decided not to.  The best affected families can hope for is the “banana republic” solution, in which the IRS will simply refuse to hit them with the trans-Constitutional “tax penalty” for failing to buy health insurance.  It’s awesome to have laws that the ruling Party can just decide not to apply against its favored constituents, isn’t it?

At the other end of the spectrum, some of ObamaCare’s wealthiest and most politically powerful backers, labor unions, are “turning sour” on the health care takeover, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Union leaders say many of the law’s requirements will drive up the costs for their health-care plans and make unionized workers less competitive. Among other things, the law eliminates the caps on medical benefits and prescription drugs used as cost-containment measures in many health-care plans. It also allows children to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.

To offset that, the nation’s largest labor groups want their lower-paid members to be able to get federal insurance subsidies while remaining on their plans. In the law, these subsidies were designed only for low-income workers without employer coverage as a way to help them buy private insurance.

In other words, union members want to grab the subsidies for the “poor” that actual poor people can’t get.  They’re even throwing Obama’s infamous fib about keeping your favorite health care plan back in his face:

John Wilhelm, chairman of Unite Here Health, the insurance plan for 260,000 union workers at places including hotels, casinos and airports, recalls standing next to Barack Obama at a rally in Nevada when he was a 2008 presidential candidate.

I heard him say, ‘If you like your health plan, you can keep it,’ ” Mr. Wilhelm recalled. Mr. Wilhelm said he expects the administration will craft a solution so that employer health-care plans won’t be hurt. “If I’m wrong, and the president does not intend to keep his word, I would have severe second thoughts about the law.”

So what?  You can have all the “severe second thoughts” you want, Mr. Wilhelm.  You helped get Obama re-elected, so you’re stuck with his health-care disaster forever, just like the rest of us.

According to the Journal, some of these unions could be looking at cost increases of 50 cents to $1 per hour due to ObamaCare mandates.  This has actually got unions thinking about shoving their members into what amounts to a welfare program.  The big reason they’re not pushing the idea harder is that they’re worried it will make the fading organized labor movement even more superfluous.  “If we’re not offering our members insurance and pension, why would you want to be in a union?” as one union representative put it.

If a private-sector operation had launched a health care plan as badly flawed and dishonest as ObamaCare, they’d spend the next ten years in court.  Liberals would use the failures of such a plan as irrefutable evidence for a government takeover of the health insurance industry.  Well, they got their takeover, and it’s among the worst laws American government has ever inflicted on its citizens.  We can only hope the pain of living under it will make certain people think more carefully before they vote next time.

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