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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