Utter arrogance of Obamacare

With (the president) promising that every American will be covered by health insurance, it's fair to ask if you and I should be required to pay for fools who put themselves in the hospital by taking stupid chances.

Like motorcycle riders who suffer massive head injuries because they refuse to wear helmets. Or smokers who, ignoring the perils of cancer and other diseases, cost Americans upwards of $85 billion a year in health care expenses. Or those who, engaging in "unsafe, unprotected" sex, contract sexually transmitted diseases at a cost to society of more than $3.5 billion annually.

Or those who contract AIDS through high-risk behavior. Or who refuse to use seat belts, child-restraint seats and smoke detectors. Or the fatsos who eat themselves into a coronary. And the alcohol and drug abusers whose tab some estimate at more than $150 billion a year.

I wrote those words in a column for the Chicago Sun-Times back in 1994. I wasn't talking about Barack Obama. I was talking about Bill Clinton, when he and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were pushing their ill-fated and baffling federal health care insurance plan. I wrote somewhat tongue-in-cheek, never thinking that almost 20 years later, Democrats would have created such a utopian mess.

The Associated Press recently reported that Obamacare could price older smokers out of the insurance market because it "allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1."

Insurers can charge them up to three times as much as younger Americans, adding as much as $5,100 to a 60-year-old's premiums. That could bring his total bill to $8,411 a year, which, AP reports, is considered to be "unaffordable" under federal law.

So much for the promise of lowering health insurance costs for all.

"Serves them right," some anti-smoking enforcers might say, agreeing that smokers should be "incentivized" to quit. So, I guess they would also agree that other high-risk behavior should require penalty-sized premiums. Single teenage girls who engage in unprotected sex should pay more to cover their prenatal and baby care — or abortions. And whatever else bureaucrats deem to be risks that should only be insured at a higher premium. It also sounds very Republican.

Someone will direct my attention to an Obamacare provision that reportedly prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums for people who are overweight, suggesting that high-risk behavior other than smoking won't be penalized. If so, can someone direct my attention to where it makes it clear in the thousands of pages of law and implementing regulations. I confess that I'm not up to finding it. Even experts still are reading the law to find out what's in it, as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said.

One might argue that under the Obamacare construct, growing old also should be considered high-risk behavior, since seniors rack up substantially higher medical bills. Except the opposite is true; growing old is subsidized, with the burden falling on younger Americans. By capping seniors' costs to three times as much as younger Americans, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates that insurers will have to hike rates for 18- to 24-year-olds by 45 percent. If you're looking for consistency and logic in Obamacare, you should go elsewhere.

The point I'm making here isn't whether Obamacare should or shouldn't impose higher costs on some or all high-risk actors. It's that Americans haven't had that debate, and apparently won't now that an incomprehensibly huge law has been passed that at once embraces and rejects that idea. Whether or not private insurers already charge more for high-risk behavior (e.g., on combat pilots) is beside the point.

Obama and Democrats have blindly imposed an all-knowing and all-seeing health scheme on America, based on the assumption that all the consequences can be foreseen and handled. The arrogance of it is breathtaking.

As well-intentioned as it may be in its efforts to create a stable and predictable health framework for all Americans, Obamacare has spawned only instability and uncertainty for all and fear for some.

All that's certain is that more than one bubble will pop to the surface from this cesspool.

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
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    This column was mistitled, should have been "Utter Ignorance over the ACA". Continuing his dyspeptic disquisition on the ACA, Mr. Byrne utterly ignores for central facts.

    First, that prior to the ACA the United States had the worst healthcare system of all developed nations. Ours is the most expensive in the world, to be sure -- and as many definitive studies have shown, we receive the worst value for money.

    Second, that the projected costs of healthcare prior to the ACA was demonstrably unsustainable and would have broken the Federal budget in a few short years. The ACA, according to the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office will "bend" the cost trajectory down so that healthcare costs can become more managable.

    Third, the ACA is actually a REPUBLICAN solution -- originally structured and passed into law by Mitt Romney when he was governor of MA. Mr. Obama did his utmost to adopt/embrace Republican healthare policies and mechanisms during the legislative process -- and the result is very bipartisan in approach. True, no Republican voted for it, but that as we all know is due to the despicable attempts by the GOP to prove to the American voters that the Federal Government "doesn't work"...and so the GOP is working its heart out to destroy our country.

    Fourth, Byrne's claim that the ACA wasn't debated is of a piece with the GOP's desperate attempts to keep Obama from helping Americams rebuild our country after the horrible train-wreck that was the last Republican president's horrible legacy. The ACA was fully debated in the House and Senate. The Republicans are at best acting like sore losers at this point...at worst, un-American. Byrne likewise.

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    It is difficult to understand how blaming Dennis or Republicans for this disastrous law will solve anything. You state it was debated, although we all know no one read it, no one knew what was in it and a number of our "honorable" senators had to be bribed to get it passed.
    Healthcare is and has been out of control for some time. While I am for free markets and deregulation, there exist a plethora of greedy individuals in the medical industry who have overcapitalized on human suffering. Drug companies have had free reign, doctors and hospitals have over tested, over medicated, overcharged for years.
    Sad truth is ACA is anything but affordable and prices are still going up for everyone. There are solutions, but real leadership and new ideas are required. Neither are in sight.

  • In reply to Robert Lowther:

    You're jumping the gun a bit. Instead of attacking ACA, give it a chance to work. Or are you simply playing the obstructionist as your elected Republicans have done the last 4+ years?

    BTW, real leadership? New ideas? Isn't that what ACA is?

    What brilliant ideas have come from your Republican friends in the House and Senate?

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    In Louisiana, we have had ACA since our charity system was instituted by Huey Long. There is nothing new about giving care to the needy and there is nothing remotely resembling leadership in our president nor Congress. Also, do not link me to Republicans nor any other political group. My sole objective is to pursue what is right, something our politicians never actually consider.
    You could be right about ACA, or at least some form of it, but in the short term premiums and delivery costs have continued to rise, as have unbridled spending as Bushs' legacy of being the worst president in history is being seriously challenged. There is no leadership and no platform for solutions. We are in serious trouble and while I am an optimist, reckoning is near. Decimation of the dollar is the change we are bringing about and the change which is required to get our house and senate in order; pun intended.

  • http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/293071-costs-mount-for-health-laws-exchanges

    http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/292157-obamacares-new-enemy-friendly-fire

  • Excuse me....by what definition is our health care system the worst in the developed world? At last report, there are more people clamoring to come into this country than leave it. There are entire cottage industries where wealthy Asian women from China and other countries come into this country for the last trimester of their pregnancy, staying in bed and breakfasts which are designed to create a tranquil and healthy environment for mother and child.....then there is the added benefit of the infant having the right to claim American citizenship by virtue of birth in the continental United States. People routinely cross the borders from Canada to seek American doctors and hospitals, paying full price, American dollars for health care that they must feel is superior to what they receive in their nationalized system. A huge portion of medical research and advance come from the hospitals and universities in this country....the fact that the federal government via the FDA, and under the guise of protecting the populace, suppresses many of these breakthroughs, while other nations are willing to take the risk, be the first, and embrace the technology, is not the fault of our medical system, but rather the fault of the nanny state who feels that they know how to live better than any of us. Our country routinely gives medications and vaccinations to other nations for free in humanitarian gestures, but who pays for the actual costs? Consumers pay via higher costs in this country. Costs in this country stem more from abuses of our culture's generous nature to those we feel are disadvantaged, ridiculous and frivolous lawsuits whereby individuals win the lottery for a simply human error, which is not necessarily negligence. Waste and duplication clog the system. Doctors and hospitals are frantically trying to balance the budgets for all those who are receiving care for free against those who pay via insurance or cash. We have created a society that views insurance companies as inherently evil and therefore deserving of being fleeced by the populace. That fleecing results in costs increasing for everyone in every category. There are the irresponsible commercials on television, broadcast on radio, magazine and newspaper print ads that purport to tell people how they can know the secret to getting their medications and medical devices at no cost......Excuse me, nothing is free and somebody is paying for it. Not every senior citizen needs a motorized scooter or chair, and in fact, many would be well served to be moving about and using their muscles, but the ads say that you can have this $2000-3000 wonder at no cost to you???? Shouldn't younger people be getting the same allotment of funding to purchase their cars and motorcycles by this definition of medical necessity???? What about the myriad of lab tests that are ordered just because insurance pays for them and the patient is never going to see the bills anyway. Often these tests have no bearing on what the patient sought medical attention for, but rather hidden under that broad definition of preventive medicine. It would seem that preventive medicine is designed to get people dependent upon the largest number of ongoing medications at the earliest possible age, requiring all sorts of "wellness checks" to insure that the medications are not causing problems, which of course, result in class action suits. The problems with the medical system is not based in quality or availability of care, nor the training of healthcare professionals, and not even a lack of equipment, but rather tied up in an administrative bureaucracy that has little to do with the actual patient and patient outcomes....so our solution to that is to put it into the hands of the federal government....the people who have written the entire library on convoluted bureaucracy. Life is seldom fair on any level, and fair cannot be legislated. You can split hairs all you like, but we have degenerated into a society that must assign blame for everything, and the fingers always point at somebody or something else. But the guys on capital hill can make it all better by legislation that they have not read completely, nor understand, nor even have a plan to implement smoothly. But that isn't their fault. The fingers point to the consumer, the victim of the system, the ones who will absorb higher costs, have lesser access because they cannot afford it, pay increased taxes to keep it afloat. Once again, the politically correct world will protect the villains over the victims.

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