The United States federal government is now mandating, under penalty of law, that millions of Americans purchase a product through a broken website. Is that fair? Is it moral?
An estimated 16 million people recently received letters indicating that their health plans are no longer available. So they head to Healthcare.gov to see what plans are available to them. And the website doesn’t work.
Millions have tried and failed to create accounts. Those who can create accounts hit other snags. A tiny handful of people make it to the end of the process, but – unless they live in Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada or Washington – they’ll be picking health plans without knowing which providers are included. So if they want to keep their doctor, well, good luck.
But thousands of people hope for the best and sign up anyway. And then the back-end data nightmares begin.
New York’s exchange admits it hasn’t sent any completed applications to insurers because it can’t verify the accuracy of the data. The federal exchange that covers 36 states is sending data to insurers, but the data is such a jumbled mess that CNBC has reported only one percent of completed applications actually contain enough valid information to complete enrollment. So 99 percent of the people determined enough to persist through all of the severe design flaws in healthcare.gov are likely to find themselves uninsured anyway.
President Obama insisted – in front of a backdrop of 13 people, only two of whom successfully enrolled in plans through healthcare.gov – that the product itself it wonderful and it is merely the delivery system that is broken. But people both inside and outside the exchanges are learning something very different as they see their 2014 rates. Even the law’s stronger supporters are in revolt.
One contributor on the liberal website Daily Kos recently wrote: “My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150… Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife's rate is going to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284… What the hell kind of reform is this?”
Or consider Obama-voter Tom Waschura, a self-described “big believer” in the president’s health care law, who recently learned his insurance premiums will jump by about $10,000 per year.
“I was laughing at Boehner -- until the mail came today,” Waschura told the San Jose Mercury News. “I really don't like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family's pocket each year, that's otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy.”
Democrats want to keep talking about “giving health care” to millions of people, or conversely condemn Republicans for wanting to “take health care away.”
But let’s be clear on what’s actually going on here. People are not being “given” anything; they are being forced to purchase expensive health plans through a web site that doesn’t even work. Under penalty of law.
A particularly insightful critic explained: “It’s not a mandate on government to provide health insurance; it’s a mandate on individuals to purchase it… In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance and they’re paying a fine. In order for you to force people to get health insurance, you’ve got to have a very harsh penalty.”
That critic was the Barack Obama who beat Hillary Clinton in 2008. If only he were in the White House, surely we wouldn’t be punishing people who fail to buy expensive insurance through a broken website.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.