Green Room

ObamaCare: A FAIL from sea to shining sea

posted at 7:47 am on October 7, 2009 by

The story of large-scale government takeovers of healthcare in America is the story of consistent failure.

Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of ObamaCare cheerleader Ezra Klein, who wrote in 2007 about how state attempts at government-controlled health care failed time and again — in Washington state, Hawaii, Tennessee and Oregon (I have added links for more detailed looks at some of these failures). While differing in the details, the stories shared common elements — skyrocketing premiums, driving out private insurers, “unexpected” floods of people into the public system, and ultimately rationing and benefit cuts.

Klein missed similar tales from Maine (x2), South Dakota and Kentucky, where mandates drove almost all insurers out of their respective states (something to remember when liberals complain about the lack of competition in health insurance markets).

Klein also missed the failure of insurance exchanges in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and California. Cappy McGarr, the chairman of the Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance from 1993-95, writes:

If Congress now creates new exchanges, as seems increasingly likely, it must prevent this phenomenon by setting two national rules: Insurers have to accept everyone and have to charge everyone the same rates regardless of health status.

Such rules would force insurers to spread risk. But enforcement would also be difficult. Every aspect of health insurance — from the rules for underwriting and setting premiums to the marketing of policies — would need to be monitored stringently to prevent companies from steering all bad risks to the exchanges. (Emphasis added.)

Requiring insurers to accept everyone (“guaranteed issue”) and charge the same rates (“community rating”) will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket, perhaps double. For all of the Democratic rhetoric about how ObamaCare will promote choice, it is clear that the point of the exchanges is to reduce choice. Jon Kingsdale, who runs the Massachusetts exchange, is more honest about the need for the exchanges to reduce choice.

Speaking of Massachusetts, Klein’s 2007 piece was excited about the then-new government takeover there, but noted that the state might be a special case because it had one of the lowest uninsured populations in the country, a wealthier-than-average population, and a pre-existing tax to fund it. Those exceptional factors would seem to make it a bad model for ObamaCare, even it if worked — but of course, it does not work as advertised. In 2009, we discover a program ripped by everyone from the CATO Institute to the left-wing Institute for America’s Future. Average health care premiums in the state are rising faster than the national average, people are choosing to pay the fines instead, wait times for care are rising, and even 13% of the insured have to forego care because it is so expensive. As in Oregon, the government is already headed toward rationing care. Yet analysts agree that the proposals now crawling through Congress are close to those already increasing costs and decreasing quality care in the Bay State.

The liberal response to this record of failure has been to claim that it shows that the government takeover of healthcare must be national in scope — a “no exit” approach that again flies in the face of Democratic claims about preserving choice and competition. The fact that Medicare and Medicaid are in sad financial straits themselves bothers them no more than the failure of all their other healthcare efforts.

Stranger still, the politicians considering voting for ObamaCare miss some of the obvious political lessons to be drawn from these failures. For example, in Washington state, following a citizen’s revolt, control of the state House switched from 65 Democrats and 33 Republicans to 61 Republicans and 37 Democrats, and Democrats were reduced to a one seat margin in the state Senate. Democrats from Washington state also lost the most seats in the US Congress in 1994, including House Speaker Tom Foley. In Tennessee, a tax revolt over funding TennCare ended at least 16 years of GOP control of the governorship. Previously, when Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988, a citizen’s revolt forced Congress to repeal the law by huge margins before it went into effect.

The old saying defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result, comes readily to mind.

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Abby, I agree the term isn’t funny anymore… which is precisely why I used it here. ;-)

Karl on October 7, 2009 at 10:03 AM

The liberal response to this record of failure has been to claim that it shows that the government takeover of healthcare must be national in scope

This is the same argument from socialists when you say socialism is a failure.

They say no, because socialism has never been fully implemented anymore.

lorien1973 on October 7, 2009 at 1:54 PM

Nonsense. Some things are always funny. Pants, for example.

S. Weasel on October 7, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Remember all those saving Obama promised by going to electronic health records …

TORONTO – Ontario’s health minister bowed to months of opposition pressure and tendered his resignation Tuesday on the eve of a report into how the province spent $1 billion over 10 years to create electronic health records.

J_Crater on October 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

Excellent post. I linked it on my blog. I am not sure why some voting for this are willing to lay themselves on the sacrificial altar for Obamacare. They must be promising them jobs in the administration. I doubt promising campaign support will be of any value when Creigh Deeds is already running away from Obama now.

msmveritas on October 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

The old saying defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result, comes readily to mind.

I agree that is the first idea that came to mind BUT I don’t think that the object of all this liberal, leftist, socialist demand for an authoritarian health care system is “universal health care.”

I think that the object is to gain a foothold in a very large section of the the GDP and, as rapidly as possible, establish a de facto government where “the elite” govern through rules, regulations, constraints and bureaucracy rather than by individual choice.

ExpressoBold on October 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Karl on October 7, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Ha! And when AP/Ed Headlined it, they changed it. :-)

Abby Adams on October 7, 2009 at 2:40 PM

I have to laugh when a Democrat complains that the Republicans will do anything to slow down the porcess of passing the health care bill. Any Republican who does is a hero. There is no way on Earth that a politician should be excited about the deficits these ladies and gentlemen are proposing to run up.

Maybe Goldberg is right, we need more congressmen! Maybe that would slow the process of failing.

allstonian on October 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

It’s all in the facts – and in this case they are soooo elementary that almost all Americans understand that …

We can’t afford it.

I was just going over some graphs that show how much in public funds various nations expend for health care on a yearly basis. And what I found is that – the Socialized nations, like Canada and Norway – are already spending about what we are now as a percentage of their GDP. To run their socialized systems – they spend about 6 to 7-percent of their GDP yearly.

Well – that 6 to 7 percent – is about what we spend on Medicare and Medicaid. The charts I was reviewing only took into account Medicare and Medicaid and not the Prescription Drug plan – so I’m thinking that, at the end of the day we actually pay more in public healthcare than 7 percent of our GDP.

Now … we also have a private sector of health care insurance that accounts for another 7 percent of our GDP – for a total of 14 percent of our GDP yearly. It’s the hugest outlay of money of any nation I’ve studied if you combine pubic and private insurance. So – there is a bit of problem here.

However – what Obama and the Democrats want to do – is something that no other nation is doing. They want to suck at least 12 percent of that 14 percent into the public treasury. There will always be some kind of private insurance – but in most countries it only amounts to about 2 percent of GDP.

Now. Norway has a public outlay of 7 percent of GDP for a nation of 4 million. And with that – they are currently complaining about long waiting lines. They are having problems delivering health care to remote areas. They are also at the mercy of collective wage bargaining by doctors and they fear that health care prices are going to dramatically increase at any moment.

This is what Norway has bought with it’s 7 percent of GDP. Oh yes – and the basic income tax rate is 28% in Norway – with an additional 25% Value Added Tax (VAT) on everything you buy there. If you live from paycheck to paycheck – that’s a total income tax of about 50%. This is what Norwegians pay for those long lines at the doctor that they get for their 7 percent of GDP.

But wait! Obama isn’t going to do that! He’s going to take around 12 percent of our GDP to do the same. You do the math – if Norwegians are paying income taxes at around the 50% rate – what do you think we’ll be paying considering we’ll be taking on a larger (almost double) problem?

The only answer is to bring down costs – but Obama would have to bring costs down by OVER HALF of what we pay today. That is not ever likely to happen in this universe folks.

So the answer is – TAXES. And the Democrats aren’t being honest about them. You cannot get something for nothing. No – the rich people can’t pay for all this – we will all have to.

Bottom line.

HondaV65 on October 7, 2009 at 2:58 PM

This is the same argument from socialists when you say socialism is a failure.

They say no, because socialism has never been fully implemented anymore.

lorien1973 on October 7, 2009 at 1:54 PM

Yes, let’s take a program that’s never succeeded at a small scale and implement it globally! What could go wrong?

That’s when I usually shift the terminology from “socialism” to “totalitarianism”, because that’s really what the “socialism hasn’t been implemented correctly” proposition implies. Plus, “totalitarianism” just scares the heck out of most sane people, so it puts the “socialist” on the defensive or, maybe even makes them realize for the first time what it is they are actually saying. Leftists aren’t really known for their deep reflective capabilities.

venividivici on October 7, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Obama’s view is much more short term. He gets an Obamacare bill passed and he will be viewed as a hero, he thinks, and the old-line media will support him, as will all the radical liberal legislators who vote for it.
They still have ACORN and SEIU to help them with the voter issue.

GaltBlvnAtty on October 7, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Our health care system as it stands today will break our country if it is not addressed. As to the current proposed legislation: We are where we are because of a lack of bi-partisanship.There is not a Republican in Congress who doesn’t understand the need for reform, if not for moral reasons, certainly for fiscal ones. But when we don’t reach consensus on this issue or any other what we get is…well…what we have. This country is collapsing, and both sides are to blame. Stop obstructing and start participating…in compromise. Everyone!

Halli Casser-Jayne
http://www.thecjpoliticalreport.com

The CJ Political Report on October 7, 2009 at 5:03 PM