Triage for Obamacare

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

In a January column, I declared Obamacare to be greatly flawed, unsettled and at risk of collapse. Readers who wrote angry denunciations of the evidence presented in it should redirect their ire to, among many others, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) who was largely responsible for drafting the monstrosity.

These people and news outlets, all original supporters of the Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act, have confirmed the content of my article with criticisms of, admissions about or withdrawal of support for the law, one I’ve described as "an unpopular health care takeover that will drive caregivers out of business, discourage research and development of new treatment methods, impose a score of new taxes and reduce coverage for seniors while driving up costs for everyone."

Sibelius, who is responsible for its implementation, admitted in Senate hearings that Obamacare will raise the price of insurance premiums for Americans, and that young people, especially young men, will get the shaft. The Wall Street Journal reported on her testimony:

"The secretary’s remarks are among the first direct statements from federal officials that people who have skimpy health plans right now could face higher premiums for plans that are more generous. She noted that the law requires plans to provide better benefits and treat all customers equally regardless of their medical claims.

"She also said that some men and younger customers could see their rates increase while women and older customers could see their rates drop because the law restricts insurers’ ability to set rates based on age and gender."
So, is Obamacare America’s future or is it just another scheme to pass expenses on to younger Americans?

Though other unions have sought and received exemptions from its provisions, the Roofers who once backed the Affordable Care Act and campaigned for the president in 2008 and 2012, became the first union to withdraw its support for Obamacare. Concerns about the cost and availability of insurance prompted the union to call for — not tweaking the bill, not amending it – repealing it. Kinsey Robinson, president of the union representing 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers, said of his concerns: "I don’t think they are going to get fixed."

The Washington Post reported a shocking new study by the Society of Actuaries finding that the ACA "will raise claims costs nationally by an average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017."
The 2700 page law isn’t understood, and the exchanges required to implement it are too large and too complex to establish by the legally-mandated deadline of October 1, 2013 – or at all. The New York Times reports:

"The fact that so many people are unaware of their new options has the potential to undermine the entire purpose of the health care law. Congress provided hundreds of billions of dollars for expanded coverage, but it did not fully account for the difficulty or expense of getting people to sign up."
Even Obamacare architect, Sen. Max Baucus (who is retiring at the end of his current term rather than risk failing reelection) said he fears a "train wreck" as the administration struggles to implement its signature healthcare law. At Secretary Sibelius’ Senate hearing, Baucus said, "I just see a huge train wreck coming down. You and I have discussed this many times, and I don’t see any results yet."

Obamacare remains vulnerable in the courts, too. Ironically, the Supreme Court decision which saved the bill by declaring its individual mandate a tax and invoking the taxing authority of the federal government may be its undoing. The State Of Oklahoma has a court case pending which could nullify Obamacare or at least strip its funding and make its administration impossible. The ACA offers tax credits and subsidies to individuals and companies that buy insurance through exchanges "established by a state." It’s complex, but National Review does a decent job of explaining it: "If a state chooses not to set up an exchange of its own, residents of that state are not eligible to receive tax credits or subsidies for buying insurance, so there can also be no fines or penalties for not buying insurance, even if there is a federally run exchange in the state. In other words, the individual and employer mandates are nullified in that state."

More than half the states have declined to set up exchanges, deferring to the federal government. If Oklahoma wins its case, the individual "tax" mandate upon which Obamacare’s funding depends will disappear in any state which didn’t establish exchanges, including in Pennsylvania.

Considering Obamacare’s many frailties – now admitted even by its supporters – a weak breeze could bring down the entire house of cards.