Some Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have argued that if ObamaCare goes through, an entire group of people will want and like the services offered, thus creating a new dependent culture of people hooked on the supposedly universal and free medical care being offered. Hence, any chances of repealing or reversing it in the future will be doomed.
The events of the previous week have shown that this is an unfounded fear. More likely is that the inherent flaws in ObamCare, now more apparent than ever, will create a groundswell of public opinion demanding either its delay or a movement to scratch it completely and come up with a program that actually works to reform and improve health care in a meaningful way.
We now know, as Stuart Stevens reports in The Daily Beast, that even left-leaning Vermont, the state with the only openly socialist senator, has seen that the roll-out of the health exchanges has been “an unmitigated disaster.” And in the reliably blue state of Maryland, only 1,000 people were able to enroll on the state’s own website, which had as many glitches and software problems as the federal website.
While liberals and leftists argue that the program is solid, and that it is only the software that is bad, Stevens writes that the current problems serve to illustrate ObamaCare’s fatal flaw:
One of the president’s key selling points of the ACA was the promise that if you liked your plan, you could keep it. We’re learning that’s often not the case as Obamacare is implemented across the country. And in Vermont, there has been no pretense of such assurance.
As of January 1, 2014, in Vermont, the ability for individuals or employers with 50 or fewer employees to purchase health insurance from private insurance companies ceases to exist. As for policies already covering those businesses and individuals? Those cease to exist, as well. In other words, in Vermont, a good percentage of its population will have no choice but to buy health insurance through the state exchange.
Now Vermont, like the federal government, is using PR to try to get people to register, as well as trying other methods, such as urging applicants to try to phone in their applications or do it via snail mail. Why not go back to early 20th century methods while we’re living in the 21st century? Perhaps they should also try to revive the Pony Express.
Vermont, Stevens points out, has the highest insurance premiums in the nation. As good liberals, their government has stringent regulations on the insurance industry, thus preventing competition. ObamaCare will not help Vermont residents, since there are only two companies offering plans on the exchange. And rates are the same for everyone, whatever their age or condition of their health. What this reveals is the essence of socialist engineering to produce equality. To their eyes, it sounds good and moral since everyone pays the same and everyone gets equal treatment. The result: People in their 50s and early 60s — before they are eligible for Medicare — pay the same rates as a young person in his 20s! As Cynthia Cox, a healthcare expert at Kaiser, explains, “Younger people will have higher premiums in Vermont than they might if they lived elsewhere, whereas older people might have lower premiums than if they lived elsewhere.”
So if you are such a young person, who earns a starting salary of perhaps $25,000 a year, and you find out that to purchase a health insurance policy on the new exchange will cost you a small fortune, you will, instead, opt to pay the $95 penalty (or 1% of your income, whichever is greater) at tax time. If you become seriously ill before that, you will then enroll and get the medical care you need, assuming that the federal and state enrollment sites are working by then. This means, however, that when your decision is put together with all the other young people who do the same and do not enroll, the ObamaCare system will not have enough young people registered to pay for the elderly people with serious health conditions who have enrolled. At that point, the system crashes and is not fiscally sustainable. As Stevens puts it, “without a pool of younger, healthier participants, it’s difficult for any insurance plan to survive.
The truth is, as Michael Gerson writes, that ObamaCare “could become an intellectual crisis for modern liberalism.” The software “glitches” could be fixed — although perhaps not in time for the January enrollment deadline. But even if they are, without enough young people enrolling, the program on its own terms is not likely to work. Its likely failure will show the follies of liberalism and the belief of all those who think socialist type planning can work. Those who really need the coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or those with new, serious medical conditions, will do everything to enroll. Those without these fears will sit back and opt for the small penalty fee. Oh yes, the government could change that to an enormous fee, but imagine the outcry of the young Obama supporters if it tries to do that.
Some will argue that a government-run health system can work, and that the problems only prove that we need a full-scale socialized medicine program, like the UK’s National Health Service or Canada’s type of universal health care. In this country, it could be instituted by expanding Medicare to everyone over 55, thus in effect becoming a single-payer system. If that is done, we will be on our way to a two-tiered medical system. The wealthy will go to concierge doctors and the fine hospitals not in the system, and the rest of us will go to second-rate hospitals and be forced to see those doctors who have not opted out of serving Medicare patients.
Moreover, the country will go broke sooner rather than later, as coverage for all over 55 will quickly become the single most expensive entitlement program existing, without funds to pay for it. And can you imagine the people who run the failing U.S. Postal Service creating the bureaucracy that will administer Medicare for all?
While Republicans are polling lower than ever as a result of the government shutdown, it should be kept in mind that as ObamaCare evolves, the Obama administration and the Democrats will quickly lose the confidence of the American people. In the National Journal Ron Fournier writes, “Beyond Obamacare, the Democratic Party’s reputation for competency is as stake. The cost of the [Obama Care website] site is already $394 million, a massive amount compared to private-sector CMS work, and sure to grow.”
So bring it on. And what conservatives should do is offer their own meaningful alternatives, such as those proposed by Tom Miller in the latest National Affairs. Miller writes that our debate has to be not just about Obama Care, but “must be understood as part of a larger debate about the future of the country.” And that requires serious proposals for market-based systems that deal with the problems of the uninsured, and that address the issues of the “cost, quality, complexity, and accountability of the options [Americans] have in the current health-care system.”
Saying no to ObamaCare is not enough. It is time that our politicians go beyond that and offer serious alternatives to fix our healthcare system.