Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obamacare’s Six Month Anniversary - The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

Today we celebrate, or desecrate, depending on your point of view, the 6 month anniversary of the passage of Obamacare.

Most of the celebrating is coming from the White House and the liberal media, but not from Democrats running for re-election who know public sentiments when they see them.

Nevertheless, proponents are celebrating The Good – which consists mostly of mandates to rein in or discredit private health insurance plans.

The Good Mandates

To wit, on this day, September 23, health plans cannot:

• Exclude from coverage children with pre-existing illnesses.

• Deny coverage to young people under 26 who parents have insurance.

• Deny coverage to anybody for any other reason except customer fraud.

• Cap the benefits of anybody who exceeds the amount of benefits offered over a lifetime.

• Force anybody to pay for preventive services such as mammograms or colonoscopies.

• Steer patients away from high risk pools designed to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

The Bad, Obama Misstates

Next, misleading Obama’s misstated promises.

The Affordable care act will not:

• increase overall health system costs. Not so says the Medicare Actuary, and not so says common sense – you cannot cover 32 million more uninsured at lower costs for all. Not so, says countless critics, who say government has never saved money with broad entitlement programs;

• allow most employees now covered to keep existing plans. Not so, says large business employees, 64% of whom, or small business employees, 80% of whom, will be forced to switch to “federally qualified plans” within the next few years;

• increase insurance premiums. Not so say health insurers, who say they are forced to increase premiums to stay in business and satisfy stockholders. Not so say millions who have already received notices of significant premium rises;

• affect seasonal businesses, such as ski resorts or amusement parks. Not so owners of these businesses who say they will either have to shut down or lay off employees to comply with reform regulations;

• cause increased regulations. Not so say millions of small business who must submit 1099 forms to the IRS for every $600 expense – medical or non-medical;

• lead to government intervention into private affairs. Not so say so millions of individuals who face IRS confiscation of tax refunds if they do not purchase federally qualified health insurance.

The Ugly

Differences between good and bad interpretations of Obamacare has precipitated an ugly political debate in the run-up to the November mid-term elections. Voters are divided, with 40% favorable towards reform, and 56% against it. The issues are : Will reform bring “affordability” and “protection” against private health insurance abuses for Americans , or will it simply bring huge runaway costs with higher taxes, limit health care options, and foster other unforeseen adverse consequences? Does Obamacare represent compassionate capitalism, or is it a path towards European-style socialism?

What everybody senses is that the days of a free lunch are over. Who pays for lunch remains up for grabs.

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