On Sunday, June 23, 2013, in a lead editorial entitled “The messy rollout of Obamacare,” the Chicago Tribune noted that the scheduled October 1 “rollout” of the much-ballyhooed health insurance “exchanges” is “likely to bring a rate shock for many Americans,” meaning specifically that most Americans will pay more for health care than they do now.
Even worse, according to the Tribune, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services officials know what rates insurers propose to charge customers who buy through the “exchanges” but refuse to disclose that to their bosses, the American people because “divulging all this information could confuse consumers or spook insurers.” Or – left unsaid by the Tribune – would prove that Obamacare’s promise that it would drive down the cost of health care for most Americans is simply untrue.
The problems with health care pricing and coverage in this country are myriad but all stem from too much government involvement, starting with the federal government encouraging employers to provide tax-free health insurance coverage as a way around economically illiterate wage and price controls, then compounding that by preventing insurers from selling health care policies across state lines.
Any sensible health care reform would provide income tax-neutral treatment for the employed, the self-employed, and the unemployed and would let insurers compete nationwide, thereby equilibrating costs and driving down prices by making them more transparent and more directly linking costs and benefits.
In short, the country could improve the cost and quality of health care by getting the government out of the business of dictating prices and coverage and by letting people decide what and how much they actually want to buy in the same way that most of us do with food and shelter, two other staples of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Public hospitals and charities could still provide health care for the indigent, but most of the market should be left to market forces.
What Obamacare has given us instead is, in the Tribune’s words, a “complex system that relies on computers to share data with the Internal Revenue Service, state tax offices, Medicaid, Medicare and other agencies in order to verify customer information.” To paraphrase Jay Leno, what could possibly go wrong? In case you haven’t noticed, the IRS really doesn’t really care all that much about its “customers,” although it certainly scrutinizes their “information.”
In short, Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges sound like a bad and probably politically incorrect old joke about Heaven and Hell: In Heaven the chefs are French, the lovers are Italian, the constables are British, and the whole thing is run by the Germans, while in Hell the chefs are British, the lovers are German, the police are French, and the whole thing is run by the Italians. (My ancestors come from at least three of those lands, so don’t get your knickers in a knot; merci beaucoup and danke schön.)
Unfortunately, this is no joke: under Obamacare the chefs are self-interested health care industry lobbyists, the lovers are Congressmen and -women, the constables are state agencies, and the whole thing is run by the IRS.