If Congress had tried to pass a law simply transferring $1 trillion to insurance companies over the next decade, there would have been energetic resistance to its doing so. The Affordable Care Act amounts to the same transfer, even as it places insurers in the enviable position of having a federal law in place that gives Americans a choice between buying their products and being fined by the federal government.
Unlike the Wall Street bailouts, the insurance bailouts are not a one-time expedient instituted in the face of a crisis: They represent an open-ended claim on taxpayers’ resources and a transfer of risk from private, profit-seeking enterprises onto the government. Together, the provisions represent an important part of the Democrats’ agenda for transforming what we know as insurance companies into semi-public utilities managed by central planners in Washington. There are obstacles to seeing these provisions repealed: Harry Reid’s Senate stands in the way, as does President Obama. But every new revelation about the real costs and burdens of this program render it more vulnerable, and it will be difficult and costly for Democrats to defend a permanent bailout regime. It is a fight worth having — and if that fight should continue into November, the American public should be invited to take the opportunity to weigh in on whether it wishes to be permanently committed to future bailouts of large financial firms that use political favoritism to pass off their losses. We suspect that many Americans will find themselves quoting John Boehner, whether they realize it or not: Hell, no.