Last week, in unusually breathless tones, the Associated Press reported on the new crisis in the interminable national health care debate, the so-called “underinsurance” phenomenon. As the AP reported, “A different health care issue has emerged for Democrats…It’s not the uninsured, but the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for people already covered. Democrats call it underinsurance”. The article goes on to argue that the Democrats will use the issue to spearhead their pitch to working class voters in the 2016 elections. We can expect that this issue will be used rally the Democrats base, to bash George W. Bush, and, with the help of the media, to create a phony campaign issue.
As the media begins to construct their narrative, in advance of the general offensive, we are told by liberal experts that rising medical costs in the form of high deductibles, hidden fees, and other general costs still make health care prohibitively expensive. As the article continues, “There is growing concern that the value of a health insurance card is being eaten away by rising deductibles, the amount of actual medical costs that patients pay each year before coverage kicks in.” The piece goes on to quote liberal U.S. Representative Jim McDermott saying that this is the next big thing, that it is a fact that the nation must address, and that health care remains the salient issue of this generation.
So, as the reader can see, the Left is once again preparing to ring the alarm bell concerning the latest and greatest health care crisis. Before we proceed any further we must ask one simple question: Where is Obamacare? Wasn’t our dear leader’s signature and sole achievement supposed to end all of this, and to remove the issue from the national debate for once and for all? Obamacare was the magic wand that would wave away all of our medical difficulties, replacing the costly and cumbersome private insurance based racket with a new system that, while it sounded similar to the old racket, would be infinitely better, more efficient, and less costly. It would be the answer to all of our problems. By 2010 many citizens had come to the realization that electing Obama would not really pay their mortgages, provide them with meaningful work, or cause sea levels to fall. They did, however, put all of their flagging faith in the leader’s promises into the health care basket, and waited, with great expectations, to see what would be delivered.
At this point, it would be helpful for a moment to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, namely to 2009 and 2010. Who can forget the always comedic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s startling declaration that “…we have to pass this (health care) bill so we can find out what’s in it!” As the debate went on the main Democratic supporters of the bill, namely Senator Claire McCaskill and others, simply retreated to a tired talking points strategy of telling questioners that “…people will be able to easily and conveniently shop for health insurance plans from their living room via the internet, and choose the one that best fits their own needs.” The public was told that they could keep their current plan if they liked it, they could stay with their current doctor, and that the cost reductions would average about $ 2,500 per family each year. Everything would be better, everything would be cheaper, people would be cared for, and the skies would not be cloudy all day.
The readers know the rest of the story. Obamacare passed by the slimmest of margins in the late winter of 2010. The electoral victory was assured through political horse trading, favor granting and outright bribery. (Who can forget the Cornhusker kickback?) The program was implemented in stages, with the Administration suffering great embarrassment when the HealthCare.gov website proved to be completely unworkable in the autumn of 2013. The Administration pressed on, urging sycophantic legislators and reporters to repeat discredited talking points, and producing television commercials, one of which featured a twenty-something slacker male shopping HealthCare.gov from his kitchen, while dressed in a union suit. The actor was dubbed “pajama boy” and he quickly became the face of the Obamacare campaign.
The only thing that those on the other side, our side, of the argument can respond is this: We told you so! The Obamacare critics rightly pointed out that you cannot create 31,000,000 customers for any commodity, without increasing the supply of that commodity, and not expect huge cost increases for the said commodity. The critics were right in terms of cost increases, long wait times for appointments and procedures, and administrative bottlenecks adding to the confusion. This all came about as the untruths concerning people who liked their current plan being allowed to keep it, and people being allowed to stay with a trusted family physician became common knowledge. The much trumpeted cost savings of $ 2,500 per family vanished, and no Administration spokesperson could remember saying anything on that subject.
The fabrications about the enrollment numbers continue but, as the critics on our side predicted, this led to skyrocketing out-of-pocket expenses. The liberals in Congress, academia, and media can no longer deny this, so they create another straw man to redirect attention from the nearly complete failure of Obamacare. When we return to the AP story we get a sampling of liberal opinion on this new crisis. A group called the Commonwealth Fund found, to their shock, that over 30,000,000 adults remained underinsured last year. They reported that many of these people theoretically had health insurance, but could not use it due to the high deductibles that came with their policies. An advocacy group called Families USA found that a full one-quarter of the people who had individual health insurance policies went without treatment or care in 2014 because they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs. Finally, The Center for American Progress, the left-wing think tank founded at the behest of Hillary Clinton back in the later 1990s, and strongly aligned now with the Obama White House claims that employers have been shifting a “disproportionate burden of health care costs onto workers.” We can see that the left, far from admitting that Obamacare is a failure, and that we are just now beginning to see the errors in the program, is busy trying to shift the blame to their tradionally favorite targets, namely to business and insurance companies.
It might be a good time for a long national conversation over whether insurance is really the answer to our medical care problems. Certainly the horror stories about patients who underwent operations, thinking that their health insurance would pay the costs, and ended up on the hook for six figure sums is not something that never happened before Obamacare. Many of the early critics of Medicare and other Great Society health care ideas argued that a third party, regardless of whether that was government or insurance agencies, interposing itself into the doctor-patient relationship was bound to raise costs, lessen treatment and care, and create a bureaucratic nightmare. Lest we forget, Obama and his henchmen bought off the insurance industry five years ago when they promised, in exchange for support on the health care fight, that they would not seek to impose a single payer system, thereby rendering private health insurance an irrelevancy. That column, however, is a different issue for a different time.
Meanwhile, where is the GOP on this new brewing issue? They should be seizing on this report as clear evidence of the failure of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, and should point out the need for repeal of the mess. One might also understand if the Party resorted to just a little bit of gloating, as well! Instead, the Republicans are mostly silent, and those who are talking have mostly dropped the mention of full repeal of Obamacare and are now fiddling while Rome burns, talking of ways to repair the shortcomings of the act. This lack of resolve is exactly what Democratic strategists expected back in 2009-10. They admitted that the public would be shell-shocked by the rapid escalation of costs and the decline of care that came on the heels of Obamacare, but assumed that the GOP would have no stomach for a repeal battle and, in a classic case of two steps forward and one step back, they would win the health care battle of 2010, and push on to the next campaign. The Republicans made electoral success out of denouncing Obamacare in 2010 and 2014, but, as we have seen so many times before, the GOP fumbled when the time came to stop campaigning and start governing. Did anyone really expect more from the likes of Mitch McConnell?
Still, despite the Republicans seeming cluelessness on this development, we are witnessing a historic moment in the health care debate. The liberals and their political party are admitting that their Obamacare magic wand is not working, it has done nothing that it was supposed to have achieved, and that the problem it was supposed to have solved is still out there and growing by the day. The liberals and their allies in politics, academia, and media will go on to argue that the Obamacare failure illustrates the need for a single-payer type of socialized medical care, which was probably their goal all along. The wild card in this deck will be conservatives and their political allies. Will they have the courage, the fortitude and the organization to point this Obamacare failure out, or will they continue down the path to fecklessness and political irrelevance. Time is ticking away, and the minutes are precious, indeed.