December 18, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: (Almost) Everyone Loses: Of course the uninsured hate ObamaCare too.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Congress exceeded its authority by “mandating” the purchase of health insurance, but it saved the law by construing the mandate as a tax on being uninsured. Being surprised that the uninsured would object to such a tax is like being surprised that yacht owners would object to George H.W. Bush’s luxury tax on yachts.

In short, what ObamaCare means to the uninsured who were not uninsurable is higher prices for a product they already were disinclined to buy, along with a punitive tax on not buying it. That seems more like a mugging than a benefit.

How many of the uninsured lack insurance because of pre-existing conditions? It’s hard to know, but it would appear the proportion is not high. A September Kaiser Family Foundation study reported that “the high cost of insurance is the main reason why people go without coverage.” It includes a pie chart with the following breakdown of reasons for lacking insurance: Insurance not affordable, 31.6%; lost job, 29.4%; other, 17.4%; no offer, 11.2%; aged out/left school, 8.8%; no need, 1.5%.

Arguably the problem of the uninsurable was a market failure that justified government intervention of some sort. If ObamaCare’s architects had approached the matter intelligently, they would have conducted research to identify the extent of that precise problem and carefully targeted their response. Government is quite capable of implementing even modest programs disastrously, but the hubris of demanding “comprehensive reform” gave us a law that had to be marketed via massive consumer fraud, and that harms almost everyone it affects.

How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?