Associated Press reports: Thousands of people with serious medical problems are in danger of losing coverage under President Obama’s healthcare overhaul because of cost overruns, state officials say. At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that’s become a lifeline for the so-called uninsurables — people with serious medical conditions who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The program helps bridge the gap for those patients until next year, when under the new law insurance companies will be required to accept people regardless of their medical problems.
Nearly everyone supports the law requiring health insurance companies to accept all applicants for insurance, regardless of pre-existing conditions. After all, what could be wrong with that?
Yet apply the same thing to any other type of insurance. Imagine someone without auto insurance whose car was just totaled. If the law required auto insurance companies to immediately cover that person and his totaled car, what do you think would happen to auto insurance premiums? They would skyrocket. And, quite possibly, the auto insurance company would go out of business.
Most people have no problem understanding this, about auto insurance or nearly any other kind of insurance. But somehow, when it comes to health insurance, the laws of nature, physics and mathematics are out the window. It’s as if people start thinking with their feelings. “I don’t want to hear that. If someone needs health insurance, they need health insurance. There oughta be a law, and that’s that.”
But don’t you understand that the moment you require insurance companies to cover all applicants, that they’re no longer insurance companies? You’re outlawing their nature, as insurance companies, and yet still requiring them, by law, to operate as and call themselves insurance companies.
Probably the single worst measure of Obamacare is this pre-existing coverage provision. Yet it’s the one provision Republicans — Mitt Romney included, when he ran for President last year — dare not oppose.
There’s a price to be paid for thinking with your emotions, and increasingly, as this law takes effect, that price will be paid in some form or another by nearly everyone.
On the one hand, as Associated Press reports, there’s a growing problem with “cost overruns.” It’s amusing to see this business term applied to government budgets. Actually, many states have state constitutional mandates requiring balanced budgets or fiscal discipline. But the United States, as of yet, has none. It simply prints more money or accumulates more debt to China (and elsewhere) via the Federal Reserve. Today’s President and Congress, far more than any in American (or human) history, borrows — literally — as if there’s no tomorrow; and acts as if this is perfectly reasonable behavior which need never change. $17 trillion in debt? $177 trillion in debt? $999 trillion in debt? They’re just numbers, and bear no relation to reality. That’s literally our economic policy, and if you think it can all end well you’re thinking with your emotions. (If you think that even a 100 percent tax rate on “the rich” would so much as put a dent in this problem, you’re not merely thinking with your emotions; you’re acting brain-dead.)
Let’s review. What is an insurance company? It’s supposed to be a voluntary arrangement in which policy holders contribute premiums for benefits which — under certainly contractually agreed upon conditions — are delivered to those policy holders. For the government to step in and ensure that those legally binding contracts are upheld is one thing. However, for the government to step in and redefine what those contractual obligations are to be is something else altogether. For decades before Obamacare, various levels of government have been doing this to health insurance companies. For example, they require that health insurance plans cover this or that type of treatment or service. This prevented the marketplace from operating as a marketplace should, offering various levels or types of policies — in different price ranges — to customers in a competitive, for-profit marketplace. It’s essentially like government passing a law stating that because everyone must eat to live, everyone is entitled to food — and therefore, everyone is equally entitled to a meal at Ruth’s Chris at least once a week. Expensive, is it not? If the government had stayed the hell out of the way, and left the marketplace alone (beyond fraud or civil disputes), there never would have been the skyrocketing cost for health insurance in the first place.
With Obamacare, the pretense was dropped altogether. Yes, insurance companies must still call themselves insurance companies and deliver benefits the government deems worthy. But this will work out no better than if the government nationalized, say, computer or television companies and demanded that these companies begin offering the top of the line product to everyone, on demand as a right, without passing on any costs to the customers. It’s simply not going to happen. If the government did this with computer or television companies, those products would either skyrocket in price or simply go out of business. The fact remains: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and if the government passes a law entitling everyone to a free lunch, either the cost of food skyrockets — or we all starve.
No matter, I know. No worries. “Shut up” is what I hear from people who don’t agree with me. That’s what passes for intellectual discourse in this society. Health care is a right and Obama plus his political henchmen have deemed it as such. End of story. Now we have to live with the results. Let me know how that works out for you, those of you who supported it and those who shrug in indifference.
Michael J Hurd
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