The New York Times reports:
Seeking to appease disgruntled governors, President Obama plans to announce on Monday that he supports amending the 2010 health care law to allow states to opt out of its most burdensome requirements three years earlier than currently permitted.
So the president is finally acknowledging that Obamacare is unworkable and will impose enormous burdens on the states. Or is he?
A closer look shows that the president is not lifting the burdensome requirements Obamacare imposes on states. All he’s doing is proposing to move up, from 2017 to 2014, the date when states can apply for federal permission to impose a different but equivalently or more coercive plan to expand health-insurance coverage. Here’s what the Times says about the legislation Obama will reportedly endorse, which was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Scott Brown (R., Mass.):
The legislation would allow states to opt out earlier from various requirements if they could demonstrate that other methods would allow them to cover as many people, with insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, as provided by the new law. The changes also must not increase the federal deficit.
If states can meet those standards, they can ask to circumvent minimum benefit levels, structural requirements for insurance exchanges and the mandates that most individuals obtain coverage and that employers provide it. Washington would then help finance a state’s individualized health care system with federal money that would otherwise be spent there on insurance subsidies and tax credits.
So states can “opt out” of Obamacare’s individual mandate if they cover as many people, with as many benefits and as many government subsidies, as Obamacare would. The Times quotes “administration officials” on how states might do that:
The administration officials said the so-called state innovation waivers in the Wyden-Brown bill might allow a state to experiment with ways to entice people to obtain insurance rather than requiring them to buy policies. It also might allow interested states to establish a single-payer system in which the government is the sole insurer. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a newly elected Democrat in Vermont, is pursuing such a proposal.
No such state plan can make a dent in the federal laws that are fueling the relentless growth in the cost of health care (see Medicare, the federal tax treatment of health care, etc.). Therefore, the only way that states could cover as many people as Obamacare does is by using Obamacare’s tactic of forcing people to buy exorbitantly costly health insurance. And if they’re not going to use an individual mandate, the only remaining option is a single-payer health-care system.
President Obama’s move is not about giving states more flexibility. It’s about moving the nation even faster toward his ideal of a Canadian- or British-style single-payer health-care system.