Obamacare and New Coke

Hank Adler

12/16/2013 12:01:00 AM - Hank Adler

New Coke was introduced to the marketplace on April 23, 1985. On that same date, old Coke was removed from the marketplace. On July 10, 1985, the old Coke product was returned to the marketplace. It only took 78 days for the people at Coca Cola to recognize and admit that they had made a huge mistake. Obamacare will be 78 days old on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. There is a message here.

While the Pottery Barn Company does not have such a rule, in business and politics, there is a rule often referred to as the 'pottery barn rule'. In terms of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush of the 'pottery barn rule' and suggested that if he invaded Iraq, “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people, you will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.” John Kerry essentially evoked the 'pottery barn rule' when he stated about Iraq: "Now if you break it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to do. But you own it. And then you've got to fix it and do something with it. Now that's what we have to do."

At this point, it strains credibility for the Administration not to recognize and admit that significant portions of Obamacare are a terrible mistake. “Significant portions” may be one of the great understatements since astronaut James Lovell told the Houston Control Center that “We have had a problem” after an oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13. It is not within the realm of possibility that a Democratically controlled Congress and the President of the United States inadvertently teamed up to destroy American healthcare. They, like the board of directors at Coca Cola, may have had the best of intentions, but it certainly appears they may have managed to un-insure literally millions of Americans. They have also raised health insurance costs for virtually everyone not eligible for a significant healthcare insurance subsidy.

The President continues to attack Republicans with the rejoinder that "I've been hearing about this whole replacement thing for two years, now I just don't hear about it because basically they don't have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates." While his claim is essentially false, the Republican plan(s)for healthcare are based on entirely different approaches to the issue of healthcare and with less than fifty votes in the US Senate effectively meaningless. What is not meaningless is the law of the land: Obamacare.

Congress will reconvene January 6, 2014. It is the responsibility of the President to provide legislative fixes to Obamacare literally on the morning of January 6th. The problems that various Americans will face on that date are legion:

· Millions who had healthcare insurance on December 31, 2013 will not have healthcare insurance by January 6, 2014.

· Some significant percentage of individuals who believe they have signed up for Obamacare on the website will find out that they do not have insurance because of website issues.

· Millions will have been added to Medicaid insurance plans and other state insurance plans where the individual states will likely not have the funds to operate those plans at ‘acceptable levels’ over the long term.

· Millions of young people will have determined that it is best for them to pay or owe a penalty and decline the available healthcare insurance coverage. (The cost of the insurance with a $5000 deductible is not a very good bet for a young person with a very limited budget and no assets to be taken in foreclosure if they in fact need emergency care between January 1st and the first enrollment date for the subsequent year.)

· Millions of adults, a great number heads of families, will determine that existing financial commitments will not allow them to insure all of the members of their families. (Few people save a sufficient amount every month to offset the increases in their insurance premiums and therefore will have to eliminate or reduce other expenditures equal to the amount of the insurance premium increases.)

· The employer mandate will be waiting in the wings with its potential of more people losing their insurance by being reduced to less than thirty hours per week and its equal potential for higher employee contribution participation.

There are a few things that could at least slow down the growth of new issues and perhaps lessen the negative impact of where we are today:

· Defer the date of the employer mandate by a few years.

· Allow the sale of health insurance over state lines.

· Dramatically reduce the services required under the minimum acceptable health insurance policies - more dramatically reduce the services required under the minimum acceptable health insurance policies for people under the age of forty.

· Allow for the sale of catastrophic only health insurance policies.

The President demanded Obamacare and he owns it. It does not belong to the Republicans who were frozen out of the debate; it is called Obamacare for a reason. Hopefully, he can make some good decisions, involve Congress and like Coca Cola get to an answer that is best for his customers: the citizens of the United States. That answer must be available on the first day of the next Congress, January 6, 2014