Obamacare is in serious condition. Its symptoms worsen as its vital signs sink like U.S. job-growth figures. Voters and Democrats flee in fear that its malady is contagious.
The Health and Human Services Department has permitted McDonald’s, Aetna, New York’s United Federation of Teachers, and 27 other well-connected organizations to escape new regulations on minimum-coverage levels and administrative-expense ratios for “mini-med” plans common among low-income employees. HHS granted these waivers because, as Sub-Regulatory Guidance (OCIIO 2010-1) explains, Obamacare could cause “a significant decrease in access to benefits or a significant increase in premiums.” These 30 groups now get a one-year reprieve from forcing their employees to enjoy less for more.
“There’s nothing in the bill that says you have to change the health insurance that you’ve got right now,” President Obama told Des Moines, Iowa, voters September 29. He is hopelessly uninformed, frightfully deluded, or totally lying through his perfect teeth. Obama should know that Obamacare already is prying Americans from their health plans.
• Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) announced September 28 that on December 31, it will jettison some 22,000 Medicare Advantage customers in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. “We became concerned by the long-term viability of Medicare Advantage programs in general,” customer-service vice-president Lynn Bowman told the Boston Globe. HPHC also worried about Obamacare’s requirement that it contract with doctors, rather than let customers choose their own physicians.
• “Health care reform has made it more difficult for employers like 3M to provide a plan that will remain competitive,” the Scotch Tape dispenser wrote its employees October 1. Come 2013, those who retire too young for Medicare will be barred from 3M’s plan. Instead, they will be asked to buy insurance via a “health reimbursement arrangement.”
• The Principal Financial Group will depart the health-insurance market altogether. UnitedHealth Group will adopt Principal’s 840,000 customers spread among 14,000 employer groups, mainly small businesses. “Principal said its exit in part is because smaller insurers will have a hard time competing with bigger players under the [Obamacare] overhaul,” the Wall Street Journal’s Avery Johnson explained.
Principal executives reportedly feared that they could not survive Obamacare’s new requirement that 80 to 85 percent of premium revenues fund medical benefits, with just 15 to 20 percent financing administrative costs. (Washington Democrats created these “medical-loss ratios” because they understand how to run health-insurance companies far better than do CEOs and CFOs with mere business experience.)
Meanwhile, Obamacare is hiking, not cutting, costs.
Barbara A. Brody Associates reports that in 2011, Obamacare’s restrictions will push health premiums up 30 percent in New York for singles, couples, and families with children.
Things are no sunnier down South. Gov. Haley Barbour (R., Miss.) asked Milliman consultants to analyze Obamacare’s impact on his state.
“Their findings are staggering,” Barbour wrote state legislators on October 8. Obamacare “will result in a massive expansion of Medicaid, which is projected to cost Mississippi taxpayers up to an additional $1.7 billion over the next decade.” Barbour expects Medicaid rolls to expand by more than 400,000 and engulf one third of Mississippi’s population.
“I have grave concerns regarding how we will be able to fund other essential public services that our citizens need,” Barbour continued. “More money devoted to the Medicaid program means less funds will be available for public safety, state health clinics and hospitals, colleges and public schools.” Forty-nine other governors are wondering how to shoehorn Obamacare’s Medicaid mandates into their tight or busted budgets. As Obamacare lies ill, Democrats run in horror.
• Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) in August wrote state health director Bruce Goldberg to urge him to request a waiver from Obamacare’s individual mandate so that Oregon could seek “innovative solutions that the Federal government has never had the flexibility or will to implement.”
• “Nevada needs to be vigilant on this issue,” said Silver State Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rory Reid, son of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who dragooned senators into passing Obamacare. In an October 7 debate, Reid the younger added that Obamacare could “put significant pressure on states because Medicaid rates could go up significantly.”
• Gov. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) is running for the U.S. Senate and away from Obamacare. “It’s overreaching,” he said. “It needs to have a lot of it repealed. If you can’t fix that, repeal the whole thing.”
• “I didn’t vote for it, people don’t want it, and the taxpayers cannot afford it,” said Rep. Gene Taylor. The Mississippi congressman was the first Democrat to sign Rep. Steve King’s (R., Iowa) discharge petition, promoted by Heritage Action for America. The petition has 173 signatures; 218 would let House members vote on Obamacare’s repeal.
Most Americans would applaud this. Among 1,000 likely voters surveyed by Rasmussen Reports on October 8 and 9, 55 percent want Obamacare unplugged; 39 percent do not. Repeal advocates include 79 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of independents, and even 34 percent of Democrats (error margin: 3 percent). Yup: More than one third of Obama’s fellow Democrats would euthanize his biggest achievement!
Amid such sentiments, Republican candidates should be far bolder than heretofore seen. They should pledge that if they win control of Congress, their first vote would aim to do what the American people want: Stuff a pillow over Obamacare and take it out of our misery.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.