I had to laugh as I saw some television ads to sign up on the healthcare.gov website, even as the website itself is down and fundamentally flawed. Clearly the marketing and web infrastructure branches of this thing are not talking.
I have to believe the entire Obamacare fiasco is not going to be in Obama’s long or short term advantage. In the short term, some preexisting condition clients are benefiting, and are undoubtedly happy to be insured. Of course, it’s not insurance strictly speaking when the risk of some event and coverage-need is 100%. When it’s mandatory like this, it’s just a transfer. But aside from that smallish group of happy people, there are 10-20mm people (like me) who buy their own insurance now and are getting notices of cancelled policies and find they must pay increased premiums for the same or worse coverage. For example, my out of pocket limit and deductible now are the same and are $2,500. I pay about a $150 a month. A comparable plan under Obamacare is $300 a month. In other words, it’s 100% more expensive. It does not even appear I get appreciably better coverage. Instead I am part of that cohort whose job is to finance the older folks, 50-65, who are high insurance risks. In addition, I’ll be subsidizing those prexisting customers we just discussed. The next wave of those facing cancellations and disruptions are those with employer-provided insurance. It remains to be seen how that will play out, but my prediction is a great many employers will cancel policies, pay the fine, and send their employees to the exchanges, where those people will suddenly realize how expensive insurance is and what a non-benefit (the opportunity to buy something that is expensive) Obama has offered.
What is missing from Obamacare, and the reason it will ultimately prove both a disaster in policy and politics, are the folks who can say, “Wow, I’m getting money for showing up.” Food stamps, Obamaphones, Section 8 vouchers, and all the rest are “found money” for a small, well organized political constituency. This is simply a mandate to buy something most people thought they were getting for free somehow, to the extent they thought about it at all.
Based on my experience with younger people starting out, many won’t get insurance. It’s just too much money. They’ll take their chances. They’ll sign up if they ever do get sick, and there won’t be too many impediments to do so. An essentially voluntary payment of 10-20% or more of their meager earnings every month is not gonna happen. They are already, if they’re working, being taxed through social security, medicare, and all the rest to pay for the nonworking. They have student loans to pay in many cases. They’re buying their first items of furniture, cars, engagement rings, tvs, and all the other stuff that are markers of an adult-type-life. They may borrow money from mom and dad occasionally, live with roommates, work two jobs, and generally hustle to make it. They ain’t buying insurance, as they’re rarely sick to begin with, plus, being young, they’re natural risk-takers. You need food, clothing, shelter, a phone, and a car, before you need health insurance, I should venture to suggest.
Obama has weakened himself incredibly in the last few months. He does not know how to take responsibility and appears more and more as a figurehead. He does not know and has not bothered to learn how the website–a key obamacare feature–would work. He does not know what his NSA is doing. He says this openly, as if it does not make him look like a loser. He let the Russians outplay him on Syria, after he himself was being played by the crazy-interventionist wing of the Democratic Party and outplayed himself with his gratuitous “red lines” talk. He simply does not look like someone in charge, aware of what is going on, someone who is clever, someone who is able to fire, probe, promote, cajole, influence, and inspire those around him.
There is a horror scenario, of course, one where we “double down” after “initial mistakes,” a scenario where we allow insurance companies to go broke and blame them for their “greed.” A scenario where “Single Payer” comes along, creates a de facto cap on insurance premiums, drives private players out of the market, and further effects a government takeover of 1/7 of the economy. This undoubtedly would be welcome to Obama and his ideological allies. But the crisis, disappointments, and screwups that would lead to that could, I should think, just as easily lead to the reversal of Obamacare. Any such scenario would take time and pain, and that pain would rightfully and naturally be assigned to Obamacare. Even the Obama-loving media couldn’t easily spin that, try as some might.
I’m loathe to see a master play when raw stupidity, arrogance, and incompetence explain the results. I have no doubt Obama wants those things in the long term and expected they might emerge down-the-road. But I can’t believe that what we are witnessing now is not simply what we’d expect when a bunch of people with no real life experience try to do something well outside their level of competence. Let it burn. Let it fail. Let this horrible law be completely their responsibility. And, while we’re at it, please don’t let me get really sick during the interim!