From HHS, With Love

We all have to live with the consequences of our own actions, but it is deeply frustrating and irritating when we have to live with the consequences of other peoples’ actions—particularly when those actions are deeply stupid, and the negative consequences that arise from them are so foreseeable and indeed in many cases were foreseen. I think about this now:

[A]ssuming all of the numbers below are accurate and that I’m not missing any major data points, it looks to me as though Virginia insurance carriers are initially requesting an unsubsidized, full-price, weighted average rate hike of roughly 30.6% on the individual market.

Got that? Insurance premiums on Virginia’s individual market are slated to increase on average more thirty percent next year. If you have a job with employer-sponsored insurance, or you’re old enough to qualify for Medicare, or you’re simply a billionaire, then I suppose that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to you. For the rest of us, however—and my family is among the rest—a thirty percent hike is a big deal indeed, like sit-down-and-think-about it kind of big, like three-extra-mortgage-payments-a-year big. Again, if you’ve got a lot of money to spend, you’re not sweating. If you’re a mere mortal, you might end up sweating quite a bit.

The premise of Obamacare was always profoundly moronic to begin with: the smartest, most Ivy League-credentialed Big Thinkers in the country got together to design a political road map to the ideal health care system, and the best they could come up with—the absolute golden cream-of-the-crop brainchild of all of that thinking and all of those Ivy League credentials—was an idiot piece of legislation the chief ambitions of which were (a) free birth control and (b) “minimum essential coverage.” The chief practical effect of the former was that a bunch of elderly charity nuns were sued by the government to provide abortifacients; the practical effect of the latter was that a bunch of perfectly acceptable insurance plans (my own included) were cancelled (after we were promised they wouldn’t be). In the midst of all of that, we have the price hikes: you know, the things that weren’t supposed to happen, the dastardly capitalist rate increases that Obamacare was supposed to pin to the mat.

Remember when a bunch of people pointed out that Obamacare was essentially guaranteed to make health insurance more expensive, and then a bunch of really super-duper whip-smart English majors and self-described nerd-wonks over at Slate dot com responded, “Um, well, actually, facts?” I remember that too, but I bet you I’ll remember it even more clearly next year, if and when my family’s insurance gets more expensive by a full third.

The standard progressive refrain in the face of these spiraling prices and this demonstrable failure of President Obama’s greatest domestic achievement is as such: “Well, gee, Obamacare would be working great if not for the fact that Republicans keep messing with it.” Leave aside the nursery-school-simplistic assessment of the situation and assume arguendo that this is true, that Obamacare would be farting unicorns and rainbows and low deductibles and free Pap smears for every Trans* man from sea to shining sea if it weren’t for the dastardly meddling of Old White Men. Okay: the Highly Intelligent People who designed Obamacare never even stopped to think about this for a single moment—they honestly and sincerely never gave it even two seconds’ thought: when you design a highly and aggressively politicized health insurance system, it is going to be subject to politics. This, too, was foreseeable and predicted with absolute clarity: if you surrender 1/6th of the economy to the government, then—now here’s an insane idea—the government might one day be in the hands of people who don’t like the way you designed things. Never a thought, never a moment: just surrender away. Everything will work out.

Remember what they promised you; remember what the eventual result was. And, when they promise something else in the future—more government, more plans, more assurances that Everything Will Work Out Fine If You Just Believe—remember how that worked out before. I will.

3 comments

  1. David

    I agree that Obamacare was not successful in producing the touted outcomes but I disagree that eliminating government interference in the health care marketplace would have produced a better outcome. I apologize that I’m not able to reduce my comments to simple soundbites but complex issues generally require complex answers & I’m going to be oversimplifying things as it is. The major point I would like to make is that the position that free markets will solve all of our problems is fallacious. The primary reason is that the “free market” is a rhetorical device used by conservatives that has only a minimal basis in reality in much the same way the labels of communism & socialism were held forth as concepts of Utopian societies since the middle 1800’s (or even further back if we consider Oliver Cromwell’s experiments in the 1600’s).

    The fact is, people in positions of power always attempt to influence society in ways that benefit those same people. They will use the rubric of “free markets” only to the extent that it allows them to eliminate competitors in the marketplace & to secure monopolistic (or oligopolistic) control. Similarly they may use other catchwords (s.a. progressivism). The only protection against this is a democratic process whereby an informed public can select between the opposing forces in the hopes of maintaining some form of balance between the competing interests (as was the founding fathers intent) & occasionally, with some luck, get someone who is truly interested in the public good while at the same time possessing some capability to enact the same. To the extent that you are demonstrating a strong bias towards one group or the other, you are not significantly contributing to the public’s well-being & in spite of your apparent hubris are certainly not “the last best hope of man on the internet.”

    For the sake of discussion, let us allow that “government” is a label that can be applied to any regulatory body. In order for any regulatory body to be effective, its deliberative process should not be subject to excessive influence by any particular group of stakeholders. Of course, this is also a fantasy because the aforementioned “people in positions of power” but let’s allow the possibility for the sake of discussion.

    To be effective a “free marketplace” requires (at least) the following; real choice, accurate information on which to base a choice & a reasonable relationship between supply & demand. Regulatory (i.e. Government) involvement is relevant in each of these areas. Regulation is required to fight against monopolistic practices. Regulation is required to maintain accuracy in information. The issue of supply & demand requires a more nuanced discussion.

    In the 3rd area regarding “supply & demand,” regulation is also useful to try to avoid abusive marketing s.a. we currently see with the opioid crisis. It should be noted that the opioid crisis is largely a product of oversubscribing of highly addictive drugs to an overly trusting public. Doctors are incentivized by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe highly addictive drugs to a public that is not using their critical faculties to consider the long term implications of their treatments. Any attempts to limit the ability of doctors to freely prescribe these highly damaging drugs has been met with vigorous opposition by pharmaceutical companies, proving once again that profit trumps morals almost every time. I’ve previously discussed with you the case of Gilead pharmaceuticals & the investor downgrade of their stock after investors realized that cured customers aren’t as profitable as permanent customers.

    This 3rd area is particularly relevant when it comes to issues of environmental protection. Historically speaking, “pollution” has largely been an irrelevant issue. For all practical considerations it did not exist. Pollution became a consideration initially when the connection between sanitation & disease was realized. Other forms of pollution only became a consideration in regards to issues of urban life & then with much resistance from the polluters. Simply put, environmental pollution only exists to the extent that a regulatory body declares it to exist. The producers of pollution, as exemplified by the tobacco industry in the last century will do everything in their power to make the case that pollution is an illusion created by government regulators in order to tyrannize the public & undermine business (& by doing so, reducing jobs). The ability to incorporate the true cost of a product, including its cost in destructive pollution, can only be established by a regulatory body. The current discussion of human influence on climate is a perfect example of how it has become impossible to have a reasoned discussion on major issues of pollution. You correctly indicated how the left has muddied the discussion of climate in your post of May 1st but you completely neglect the other side of the issue which is the extent to which the fossil fuel industry has attempted to “muddy” the science with the goal of prioritizing profits above the “public” good.

    So, in spite of what that RHINO Ronald Reagan claimed, the problem isn’t government, the problem is a government that is not truly representative of all of the citizens who it is pledged to serve.

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