There’s been a lot of discussion about conservative media’s culpability in creating unrealistic expectations and warped priorities among Republican voters. In many cases, it’s a reasonable critique. My question: when are we going to have this conversation about the other side? You know, the one that enabled the passage of a massive partisan health-care reform that’s failed to deliver on almost all its promises?
No doubt, you’ll remember all those romantic charts and stories from the liberal smart-set predicting Obamacare’s affordability and success. Remember the jeering aimed at conservatives who argued state-run markets that inhibit genuine competition and increase regulations would only spur costs to rise? “Lies,” they said.
In 2014, E.J. Dionne asked a valuable question: “Is there any accountability in American politics for being completely wrong?” The answer is, of course not. Not for some conservative talkers. And definitely not for the Voxers and liberal pundits who keep modifying the meaning of success whenever Obamacare’s viability is threatened (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 … you could spend hours linking to pieces rationalizing why ACA’s failures simply mean it’s “working.”)
At the time, Dionne argued that the ACA was doing exactly what its supporters had predicted, “getting health insurance to millions who didn’t have it before.” In reality, that was only one piece of Obamacare’s promise, and even that accomplishment has been retroactively simplified to create an impression of unqualified success. Far from it.
Of course mandating and subsidizing health-care insurance will decrease the number of uninsured. Yet Left punditry seems to be under the impression that coercing people to participate in their plans is revolutionary policymaking. But countless times in 2009, the president promised that exchanges would offer those newly insured Americans more quality “choices” and “affordability” and push down rates overall. (He promised the rest of us that health-care premiums would fall by $2,500 for a family of four. Instead, they’ve risen by over $4,800.)
New administration data released this week finds that Obamacare premiums will spike an average of 25 percent across the country for benchmark plans in 2017. But don’t worry, consumers on exchanges will also have far fewer choices. So they will either be forced to forfeit plans they like or lose insurance altogether and accept a tax or fine — or whatever liberals are calling their state-enforced mandate these days.
The number of health-care insurance carriers in the exchanges will drop from 298 this year to 228 in 2017. In five states — Alaska, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming — there will be only be one insurance company providing plans in 2017. It’s one too many for many on the Left.
Obamacare is working so well that Democrats are now pressuring Republicans to fix it and Hillary Clinton is arguing that to save it we need a “public option” — a euphemism for a government-run insurance program that incrementally undermines competition and care by allowing political considerations to dictate price.
You can’t save contrived marketplaces, because they never work. They don’t work even when you allow cronyistic insurance companies to write policy. They don’t work because some progressive massages numbers and crams them into a line chart. They don’t work any better just because Republicans have failed to hatch their own comprehensive government-run plan.
Even as he was boasting about his signature achievement, Obama conceded that six years after passage Obamacare was still experiencing “growing pains.” You know, it’s just like a “starter home” that we “hope over time you can make improvements.”
Rest assured, those “improvements” never mean opening markets or loosening restrictions. In other words, health insurance reform was exactly what many Republicans feared it would be: a way to incrementally socialize the system.
Obama also, curiously, claimed that most Americans aren’t even affected by the troubles besetting the law. He’s right, of course, when it comes to the upside. He’s wrong about the cost.
“We think they will ultimately be surprised by the affordability of the premiums, because the tax credits track with the increases in premiums,” Kevin Griffis, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, reassured exchange users after the rate hikes were announced.
Now, I realize you knuckle-draggers who concern yourselves with cost of government will be dismissed as a “debt scolds” by the platinum-coin crowd. Still, there are around 10 million customers who purchase their health care through HealthCare.gov and state-run offshoots. With no effective national reform, that number will likely grow. Although these consumers have fewer choices, they will still receive financial assistance to offset the rate hikes. A spike in rates on the benchmark plans means more subsidies. Someone has to pay for this new welfare program.
So yes, Bill Clinton was right to point out that ACA premiums will increase for middle-class Americans who don’t qualify for subsidies. “So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half,” he said, describing a long-time conservative appraisal of the law. Really, it’s just a new welfare program.
Unlike the media seers who saw Obamacare paying for itself, magically bending the cost curve in the right direction and creating vibrant pretend marketplaces that offer uninsured Americans an array of affordable choices, I can’t see the future. The trajectory of the law, though, offers us two choices, broadly speaking.
Republicans can let the law, which Democrats still solely own, die. They can then reform the health-care system by allowing it to function more like every other successful market in the country — with minimal interference from politicians. Or we can all accept a giant unfunded liability, higher taxes, and further socialization of our health-care system. The only question will be: how quickly.
There’s one thing for sure: no matter what happens, liberal cheerleaders of Obamacare will continue to act as if the law was an awe-inspiring success.