Obamacare: The mask is off
posted at 10:45 am on July 16, 2009 by Karl
Kudos to Investor’s Business Daily for uncovering a doozy in the House version of Obamacare:
It didn’t take long to run into an “uh-oh” moment when reading the House’s “health care for all Americans” bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.
When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee.
It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage…
House Majority Ldr. Steny Hoyer recently said that the health-care reform bill now pending in Congress would garner very few votes if lawmakers actually had to read the entire bill before voting on it. I guess he knew what he was saying.
This aspect of Obamacare is even more socialistic than the system in countries like France, where many doctors will not see patients who do not have private insurance in addition to the government-controlled coverage. Then again, the House also proposes to pay for Obamacare by making our tax system more socialistic than France’s, so maybe we should not be surprised.
When discussing his proposed government takeover of the US healthcare system, Pres. Obama always hastens to assure people that if you like your current coverage (as the overwhelming majority of people routinely tell pollsters they do), you will be able to keep it. However, if you lose your individual coverage, you will be unable to buy new insurance. And the mentality that outlaws new individual insurance may be inclined to do the same for employer-provided insurance in the future. Not that the Left will have to resort to that. If Obamacare passes, insurance will generally become a function of government. And any “public option” that passes will unfairly compete with private insurers — bypassing the laws that apply to private insurers, sticking taxpayers with hidden administrative costs, paying below-market Medicare rates (which in turn inflate private costs), and so on, until they have crowded competition out of the market.
We can be glad that the Democrats were so brazen about their intent as early as page 16 of their bill, as they have just made life easier for people fighting the nanny state. It is tempting to ask what might be in the remaining 1,002 pages of the bill. However, as the Leftist strategy here seems to be to strongarm moderates into not filibustering a final House-Senate bill, the real question is whether our elected representatives will read — or even give Americans a chance to read — the final product before a vote is taken. The moderates really have the power to dictate the final product. The issues are whether they have the guts to do so… or whether voters can scare them into doing the right thing.
Update/clarification: Patterico flagged this post from Tom Maguire, noting that existing policies are grandfathered and that all new qualified privately offered plans must meet certain guidelines to which a grandfathered plan will not be subject. As to the first point, this is why I noted that the issue arises if you lose your individual insurance. If the House provisions passed, as the Foundry notes:
[A]ll individuals will be mandated to buy Insurance Exchange qualifying plans only. And thanks to a laundry list of new regulations, these plans will be much more expensive after the bill takes effect.
The private individual market will end, as we know it. Individuals will be dealing with an artifical market constructed by the government and paying more (which would also tend to push people into any “public option” available, which I’m sure is purely coincidental). There is some debate about the Insurance Exchanges in the comments already, but what interests me now is that — to the extent that the IBD story lacks that nuance, it is largely because IBD relied on the House Ways and Means Committee for its answer. Congress increasingly likes to vote on bills it has not read; apparently the staff cannot come up with a complete answer when the press asks about this bill, either. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.
Two main bills are being rushed through Congress with the goal of combining them into a finished product by August. Under either, a new government bureaucracy will select health plans that it considers in your best interest, and you will have to enroll in one of these “qualified plans.” If you now get your plan through work, your employer has a five-year “grace period” to switch you into a qualified plan. If you buy your own insurance, you’ll have less time.
And as soon as anything changes in your contract — such as a change in copays or deductibles, which many insurers change every year — you’ll have to move into a qualified plan instead (House bill, p. 16-17).
When you file your taxes, if you can’t prove to the IRS that you are in a qualified plan, you’ll be fined thousands of dollars — as much as the average cost of a health plan for your family size — and then automatically enrolled in a randomly selected plan (House bill, p. 167-168).
Again, if the House bill became law, it would be the end of the individual insurance market as we know it.