Hopefully, you now understand why I have devoted about a dozen of my Sunday columns to the train wreck widely known as Obamacare. From the beginning, this mega combination of many poor (and a few good) ideas was destined to be problematic in the real world of a market economy.
Herewith my indictments.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Does Ehrlich have any ideas? [Letter]
- Ehrlich the Gilligan of columnists [Letter]
- Getting out the marijuana message [Letter]
- The roll-out
- Blowing snow
- The roll-out
See more photos »
- Laws and Legislation
- Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
- Parties and Movements
See more topics »
•Scope: Prior to Obamacare, approximately 15 percent of Americans were either under-insured or lacked health insurance. And there were plenty of proposals around that could have been cobbled together in order to pass a truly bipartisan bill. Such initiatives included allowing insurance policies to be written across state lines, reforming state high risk insurance pools (to deal with pre-existing conditions) and expanding health savings accounts, and building protocols for state based tort reform measures. Yet, the president sought to remake all of American health care, thereby impacting 17 percent of the American economy and causing tremendous disruptions in the individual and group markets. And he did it with a bill that generated not a single Republican vote. No wonder Obamacare lacks even a modicum of good will during these ugly opening days.
•"One size fits all": A classic progressive mindset is now an unattractive reality for those in the individual market. You see, the president never really meant, "You can keep your health care if you want to." What he really meant to say was, "We know better than you what you really want and need." Accordingly, Obamacare-generated regulations have terminated the vast majority of so-called "substandard" insurance policies previously operating within the individual market. (Approximately 19 million Americans could feel the brunt of this change.) There is positive news, however. The President wants you to feel good about your new, more expensive plan. But, a dirty little secret is attached: The additional benefits you will be now be required to purchase (many of which you do not need) will help subsidize the older and sicker, many of whom will now qualify for taxpayer subsidies on the state exchanges. Note to those misguided young men who helped make Barack Obama a two-term president: Your required purchase of prenatal care and mammogram screenings is the logical result of your vote; you are the chosen cross-subsidizers of the misnamed "Affordable Care Act." Remember: elections have consequences.
•"We'll take that": The transfer of wealth (rather than the creation of same) is another fundamental tenet of progressivism. And this prized value is well represented in Obamacare's 2,300 pages of text, 10,516 pages of regulations (as of Sept. 10), and 22 new tax increases. Total wealth transfer is unknowable, but assuredly monumental. The price tag represents the largest tax increase in U.S. history.
•Single Payer: The president has been none too shy about his preference for a single payer system. (You might recognize this as the wonderful system that encourages so many Canadians to seek quality health care in the U.S.) Indeed, some believe Congressional Democrats will utilize Obamacare's notable shortcomings to seek this ultimate mechanism of federal control. This notion is bolstered by the one aspect of Obamacare that is functional: rapid Medicaid enrollment. This costliest of entitlement programs is proving to be an attractive alternative to the new exchange plans; nearly 90 percent of Obamacare enrollees are new Medicaid sign-ups. And nobody can claim surprise. After all, something for nothing has been Obamacare's (and the whole of the Obama administration's) core attribute from Day One. The problem only occurs when that nothing turns out to be something; a lot of something for those governors who decided to take the "free" federal money (for three years) and run.
•Reduced choice: Higher insurance premiums and fewer provider options are the marketplace realities of the new exchanges. You see, large provider networks were cut in order for exchange options to be even minimally competitive. And the notion of a $2,500 savings per family should be added to the growing list of Obamacare's false promises.
•Memory loss: I have heretofore been sympathetic to the president's persistent claim that he was "out of the loop" regarding major scandals. After all, it is impossible to be up on everything going down around a gargantuan federal government. Nevertheless, the rapidly expanding list of "I didn't knows" from the president has become problematic: Angela Merkel's phone intercepts, illegal IRS targeting, Fox News D.C. correspondent James Rosen's phone logs, Benghazi terror warnings, mass NSA phone taps, and the spectacularly not-ready-for-prime-time Obamacare website constitute a disturbing trend. Three explanations present themselves: The president is too detached from a number of his most important tasks; the president's staff keeps him in the dark in order to maintain deniability when things go south; and/or the president is less than forthcoming when commenting on matters of great import. None of these explanations is particularly appealing to a country that instinctively wants to believe its president.
•Clintonite tactics: You remember the Clintons' modus operandi: destroy the accuser. The Hillary-approved tactic was employed whenever her husband suffered a "bimbo eruption," a not infrequent occurrence. Similarly, today's Obamacare defenders rant, rave and blame the GOP for Obamacare's numerous problems. And, as always, there's a frequent hint of Republican racism to explain the party's united opposition to the bill. Well, enough is enough. Here's hoping Republicans will not back off. Many were sent to Washington to oppose Obamacare. Many of their predictions are proving all too accurate. We can do better, but not with this turkey. Scrap it now, before it's too late.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" — a book about national politics. His email is email@example.com.
To respond to this commentary, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.