Viewpoint: Who’ll get stuck paying for Obamacare?

Obamacare is lots of things to lots of people. Some sardonically say it’s like “the gift that keeps on giving.” And that has both positive and negative implications, it’s clear.

So, the big question is, “what about Obamacare reform?” Let’s set the stage. Americans love “free stuff.”

Well, Obamacare is not exactly free, but rather it confiscates the money to redistribute and fund it from three places:

• In a tax-and-redistribute scheme, it takes it from people who scrape out a living and gives it to people who don’t.

• In a “kick the can down the road” scheme, it requires our kids and grandkids and successive generations of heirs to pick up the bill, as the national debt immorally grew under President Obama from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, simply because politicians wanted to pretend to give people “free stuff,” but foist the bill on later generations.

• In a “screw the private sector” strategy, after co-opting the participation of insurers to participate in the cost shift — in a game of health-care musical chairs — it left them without a chair, paying out billions of dollars they never could recover from rate payers or the government.

Highmark, the insurer with the Blue Cross-Blue Shield franchise for large parts of Pennsylvania, as well as Delaware, reports that “to date, Highmark has lost nearly $1 billion as a result of the ACA. Last year alone, it was $180 million and the years leading up to that was $773 million,” its executive vice president Tim
Constantine told the Rotary Club of Wilmington this month. Constantine is the former president of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Delaware.

Highmark, which insures more Delawareans than any other insurer, is still trying to figure out what to do with Obamacare for 2018, as Obamacare in other states already has imploded, with virtually no competition, because of the operating shortfalls.

“Highmark has been participating in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace since it began in 2014. During that time there have been a number of challenges with this program. Last year we made a number of adjustments to our product offerings so that we could continue to participate in this market,” said its spokesman Matt Stehl last week. “In Delaware, we have until June to file our 2018 ACA product offerings and rates with the Department of Insurance.”

Of 950,000 or so Delaware residents, 27,584 Delawareans enrolled through the ACA, according to Delaware’s Department of Insurance. Another 217,499 are enrolled through Medicaid, of which 66,730 are enrolled in Medicaid expansion. Another 180,653 enrolled in Medicare, which is required by the government, once someone turns 65. (This writer is one of those, although I still buy a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy as my primary coverage.)

The fundamental flaws of Obamacare are not just the coverage. They are the product of the American political left’s shift towards socialism.

First, more and more of necessities of life are being treated as entitlements of all citizens, not as something to be worked for and paid for. The government in effect is putting more and more private sector companies in the role of utilities obligated to serve regardless of ability to pay.

The predecessor of the US Postal Service was the original, as well as public education, certainly each of them essential. But, over time, government has added more and more to the list, among them, food (e.g., SNAP formerly Food Stamps), housing (e.g., public housing, and more recently mandated “affordable housing”), utilities like energy and water, and in recent years banking services, plus countless others, e.g., drivers’ licenses for those who decide to be illegally in the U.S.

When I was a kid, health care was a consumer item. As a poor farm family, we bought a hospitalization policy for the big things, and we self-rationed primary care and medicines, buying them only if absolutely needed.
Second, while the fundamental concept of insurance is risk-sharing, e.g., 100 families kicking in for home insurance or auto insurance, with the expectation that one of the 100 might need it, health care is something today that virtually everyone chooses to buy.

Insurance then is less about risk-sharing and more about cost-shifting, determining who pays when a health-care consumer cannot or does not want to pay for her or his own health-care choices. If I know you’ll pay for my health care, I’ll use my free health care until the cows come home, driving up costs for all.

Third, policy-makers “make it up.” Either they believe in a “tooth fairy,” who can pay the price for all their promises, or they will pay for today’s health spending with debt that they pass on to our kids and grandkids, in a system that ultimately will go belly up, that will collapse in an implosion fueled by huge inflation, an American bankruptcy that will make Puerto Rico’s look like “child’s play.”

I’ve always opposed unfunded mandates, but what really should be happening here is that the federal government should be sending the bill to Gov. Carney and the Delaware General Assembly so that other Delawareans are tasked with paying the costs today of health care for their fellow Delawareans as those decide to spend it.

That brings home immediately to each of us the real cost of Obamacare, which has been carefully hidden by presidential sleight-of-hand.

Are we really being fair to our fellow citizens to take away the motivation and incentive for them to work to pay for their own essentials like health care?

Worse, are we really being fair to our kids and grandkids by deciding to stick them with the bill — increased then by fivefold or so for carrying costs — for our health care choices and spending today? n

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