A Birthday Good Riddance to Obamacare

Brian and Garrett Fahy

3/24/2014 12:01:00 AM - Brian and Garrett Fahy

Since its party line passage and subsequent signing on March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been altered more times than anyone can count. After the law was passed so we could “find out what’s in it,” in Nancy Pelosi’s phrase, the law’s requirements have been subject to constant alterations and revisions, much like Ms. Pelosi’s facial features.

Like all legislation, Obamacare’s popularity reflects the effectiveness of its implementation, or lack thereof. According to a recent CNN poll, the bill remains deeply unpopular: 57 percent of Americans oppose it. And for good reason: each new poll has followed the announcement of another ACA debacle. To wit, in late February, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projected that Obamacare will raise premiums for two-thirds of small and medium sized businesses. Not exactly good news for job seekers in a moribund economy.

The constant barrage of bad news has made endorsement of the bill difficult for all but its most partisan defenders. President Obama, one of its few remaining champions and insulated from another election, hypes provisions concerning pre-existing conditions, and the ability of young adults to freeload on their parents’ plans. But these alleged benefits are fictions.

In the case of pre-existing conditions, government insurance programs and many pre-Obamacare plans did not preclude coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. And, Obamacare does not preclude insurers from charging higher premiums for pre-existing conditions, so the landscape has not radically changed.

As to the freeloading provision, this is nonsensical and shortsighted because it incentivizes perpetual dependency, retards responsibility and invites sticker shock when a “young” person turns 27 and suddenly owes huge monthly premiums. As late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel astutely asked, why would the young and healthy, the linchpin of the entire scheme, sign up for Obamacare when they can remain on their parents’ plan?

And once they’re off their parents’ plan, it will be cheaper to go without insurance and pay the fine (if it’s still law) than signing up for insurance. ABC News noted that the young and healthy could save over $1,000 by not enrolling in a plan. This may explain why less than 25 percent of exchange enrollees are between the ages of 18-35, when the White House was counting on that group comprising almost 40 percent of total enrollment.

Young people are not the only ones resisting the urge to enroll. While the White House needs to enroll 7 million Americans in health care exchanges by the end of March, it recently trumpeted only 4.2 million “enrollees” thus far. However, that figure is misleading because the administration has no idea how many Americans have actually purchased and obtained insurance policies. And, according to consultants at McKinsey & Co., only 11 percent of those who signed up through the exchanges were previously uninsured. And, more tellingly, close to 90 percent of eligible consumers who were uninsured before Obamacare have chosen not to purchase insurance on the exchanges, citing high costs as a primary impediment.

Thus, the law is, four years after its passage, raising premiums for the young and the employed, reducing access to care, and failing to attract the minimum number of enrollees needed to sustain itself. Hardly a success story.

Beyond these policy failings, the political fallout portends Obamacare’s ultimate demise in the dustbin of policy history. The Tea Party wave of 2010, birthed in response to Obama’s unchecked federal expansion, has reappeared on the horizon as Obamacare threatens to unseat more Democrats.

Witness the recent result in the Florida Congressional special election. Running in a district President Obama twice won, the Democratic candidate, who wasn’t even in office when Obamacare was passed, was successfully targeted as a supporter of the bill, and despite outspending the Republican opponent, lost by 2%. Not a large margin to be sure, but large enough to have the Democrats worried.

Defending a host of vulnerable Senate seats this fall, including many in red states, Democrats have settled upon the talking point of keeping Obamacare but fixing the broken parts. Fixes alone won’t mollify the millions whose plans were cancelled, who are being forced, as President Obama admitted in a recent interview with WebMD, to find a new plan with a new doctor in a new network.

With each cancellation notice, missed deadline, and displaced patient, Obamacare grows more unpopular. With each day, President Obama inches closer towards lame duck status. Who will defend this monstrosity once he enters the twilight of his administration? Certainly not congressional Democrats, who may have surrendered the House and Senate in successive midterm elections because of the ACA. Once the exemptions expire and the mandates finally kick in (as they must), there will be no one to take up the bill’s cause or its defense.

With no benefits to speak of, no defenders, and millions of policy cancellations to its credit, Obamacare may die by neglect before it can be removed by repeal. Thus may conclude one of the saddest, shortest, and most instructive legislative escapades in modern American history. Happy Birthday Obamacare.