Mona Charen

Perhaps you've heard the radio or TV commercials sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services urging seniors to report instances of Medicare fraud. There's a number to call, along with cheerful suggestions.

The intent here seems benign enough -- saving taxpayer money by catching the dishonest. One might even be tempted to praise it, were it not for what the Obama administration is doing with the other hand -- issuing an engraved invitation to commit fraud when signing up for the health care exchanges.

Obamacare is proving too unwieldy even for the greediest of big government centralizers in the Obama administration. With only months to go before their Frankenstein was set to get its jolt of electricity in January 2014, they've announced a series of delays. The employer mandate, whereby businesses with 50 or more employees must certify that they are providing insurance that meets government requirements, will be delayed by a year.

When you design a Rube Goldberg health care system with a thousand moving parts -- subsidies, mandates, exchanges, reporting requirements, sliding scales and varying eligibility for Medicaid, expanded Medicaid and so forth -- it doesn't take much to bring the whole contraption to a halt. By delaying the employer mandate, the Obama administration undercut its own complex system for calculating people's eligibility for health exchanges. In theory, it was supposed to be based on family income, family size, the lack of employer-provided insurance, eligibility for other government programs and more. (For further edification, consult the 600- page rule HHS issued on July 5.)

Under the circumstances (and leaving aside the legal problems with delaying implementation by executive fiat), the logical solution might have been to delay the entire law for one year. Instead, the administration announced that people could sign up for the exchanges "based on the honor system."

This outright encouragement of fraud is profoundly immoral and takes the country is precisely the wrong direction. As Nicholas Eberstadt details in A Nation of Takers, the availability of entitlements is changing the character of the nation (or at least of large swaths of it). America was founded and populated by people with a horror of dependency.

"Although many Americans in earlier times were poor ... even people in fairly desperate circumstances were known to refuse ... handouts as an affront to their dignity."

Both Democrats and Republicans contributed to eroding the stigma associated with dependency, but Democrats were more likely to describe benefits as "rights" and to condemn all attempts to verify or narrow eligibility as heartless cuts.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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