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Finding Out about Obamacare
There’s a real reform that Congress should have passed — and should still pass.


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Robert Zubrin

Nancy Pelosi promised that we would all find out what Obamacare entailed after the billed was passed. Last week I did.

I run a small company with 18 employees on its payroll. We have a health-insurance plan administered by Anthem Blue Cross. Last week, Blue Cross notified us that unless we renewed our plan immediately, accepting an 11.3 percent increase in our rates, we would have to accept the new Obamacare rates, which will go into effect in January 2014. These would entail a 38.2 percent increase.

I don’t like being shaken down like this. But business is business, and an 11 percent hit beats 38 percent, so I took the offer. But that will only postpone the problem. Starting next year, we will have to pay the full burden of the new higher Obamacare health-insurance rates.

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To compute our new Obamacare-era rates, Blue Cross did not simply levy a higher rate across the board. Rather, it calculated a new rate for each and every employee, based individually on his or her age and family circumstances. The sheet showing this calculation may be found here. (I have blanked out the employees’ names for privacy.)

The size of the Obamacare-driven rate increase varies greatly from employee to employee, ranging from 15.1 percent at the low end to 103.1 percent at the high end. Despite the fact that my employees vary in age from 25 to 64, not a single one had his or her rate decrease.

The 38 percent increase in our health-insurance bill will represent an amount equal to 4 percent of the entire company payroll. Thus, on average, Obamacare will cost my employees an amount equal to a 4 percent raise, or require that the workforce be reduced by 4 percent, or some combination of the two.

Fewer jobs, at lower pay. That’s what Obamacare means. There is no reason to believe that the experience of my company is exceptional, and if it is not, then we could be looking at something like a 4 percent loss in American workers’ income, whether experienced as lost jobs or lost wages.

When the government mandates that everyone must buy a product, its sellers can, and will, increase its price, potentially without limit. The only surprise is how fast the insurance industry has chosen to do so.

What is needed is more competition, not less. What is needed is laws that reduce the leverage of insurance oligopolies rather than increase it. Instead of forcing everyone to buy health insurance, Congress should pass a law protecting the uninsured from being charged more than the insurance companies are for a given service. Were such protections in place, small businesses, associations, and individuals could readily band together and, by using a combination of health savings accounts and low-cost catastrophic insurance, find much more economical ways to insure themselves.

Then maybe Blue Cross would think twice about jacking up its rates.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy and the author of Energy Victory. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published last year by Encounter Books.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its initial posting.

 


Obamacare Exchange Glitches
The official launch of Obamacare's health insurance exchanges on October 1 turned into a glitch-ridden affair, causing a scramble for tech support and media spin by backers of the law. Here’s a look at what users encountered. Pictured, the main page at the federal HealthCare.gov site.
Further embarrassing administration officials were several on-air crashes as newscasters tried to demonstrate the online exchanges. Pictured, MSNBC reporter Mara Schiavocampo stumbled during sign-up, then waited on hold on a support line for 35 minutes before giving up.
HealthCare.gov was beset with a number of issues, from general access problems to database breakdowns that frustrated attempts to set up accounts and peruse rate information.
More broken screens at HealthCare.gov.
Confirming fears about security of personal information, screens meant to establish security questions on user accounts to verify identity were not providing valid question and answer options.
Those who braved the online tech support were met with long wait times. Whether the delays were caused by simultaneous traffic or deeper software problems remains unclear.
Federal officials reported that 2.8 million visitors access the federal site, with some 81,000 contacting call centers and 60,000 requesting live support chats. Pictured, live-chat window at HealthCare.gov.
Administration officials tweeted apologies for the technical issues early on Tuesday, but users reported continuing problems throughout the day.
Those states that set up their own exchanges also experienced a range of launch-day glitches. Pictured, problems at Colorado's exchange prompted this note from administrators.
Database error code seen at the Colorado exchange.
Apology message at the Kentucky exchange.
Error screen at New York's exchange site. Another user tweeted: “Logged onto the New York State healthcare exchange, got this: ‘Error 500: java.lang.NullPointerException’ (@marykissel)
“Cover Oregon, the insurance exchange, won’t be ready to process enrollment on schedule tomorrow. (@jjcooper)
“#ObamaCare exchanges open today and #WA State’s website isn’t even working. Precursor to the complications to come. (@cathymomorris)
The mobile site for California’s exchange was not allowing user access.
Updated: Oct. 01, 2013

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