Politics & Policy

When Obamacare Came to Harvard

The experts there are getting the change they believed in — and just listen to them howl.

Obamacare has come to Harvard, and the faculty is in a state of shock and dismay.

In what has to be considered an early contender for the most hilarious and enjoyable news story of the year, the New York Times recounts the tumult over Obamacare in Cambridge.

“For years,” the Times writes, “Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.”

In other words, they are getting the change they believed in — good and hard. As a wag commented on Twitter, karma is a pre-existing condition. The Harvard imbroglio is a little like the famously free-market University of Chicago economics faculty launching a revolt against tax cuts or deregulation.

As the saying goes, when you’ve lost the Harvard faculty . . . you’ve lost self-satisfied elites who never imagined that the policies that they support imposing on everyone else might come back to bite them. Perhaps President Barack Obama can issue an executive order waiving Obamacare for Ivy League faculties that believed his election was the dawn of a new era of enlightened rule.

The enrollment guide from Harvard’s human-resources department explains that rising health-care costs, some caused by Obamacare, account for the changes hitting the pocketbooks of the custodians of learning at Harvard. It cites specifically free preventive services and the extension of coverage for younger adults up to age 26 (as well as the impending “Cadillac tax” on pricey health plans).

Q: How many Harvard professors does it take to figure out that free government benefits aren’t actually free? A: As many Harvard professors who are forced to pay the indirect costs of those benefits.

To the stupidity of the American voter, in Jonathan Gruber’s infamous phrase, can now be added the stupidity of the Harvard faculty. If Gruber ever gets axed by MIT, he apparently shouldn’t expect a warm reception at Cambridge’s other elite university.

The obstructionists on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted by a lopsided margin against the health-care changes, but they were too late.

According to the Times, history professor Mary D. Lewis is a leader of the faculty opposition, which makes her practically the Mitch McConnell of Harvard University. Let’s hope she has a plausible repeal-and-replace plan and isn’t merely campaigning on the power of sheer, nihilistic rejectionism.

Richard F. Thomas, a Virgil scholar, said the health-care changes are “deplorable.” (Quoth the poet, “Each of us bears his own Hell.”) They are “deeply regressive.” (“It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be.”) And they are “a sign of the corporatization of the university.” (“O accursed hunger of gold, to what dost thou not compel human hearts!”)

Don’t worry, Harvard faculty; Texas senator Ted Cruz is coming to the rescue. Who better than a Harvard Law graduate to swoop in to save professors at his dear old alma mater from the consequences of their own folly?

Actually, the changes Harvard is experiencing are quite mild. By any measure, the school’s plan is still incredibly generous. Faculty will, for instance, now have an annual deductible of $250, which is hardly exorbitant. Perhaps the Harvard faculty foolishly believed that other alum, President Obama, when he said Obamacare would save the average family $2,500?

In a properly constructed market, consumers — even including Harvard professors — should indeed bear more of the costs of their health care directly. But in today’s system, consumers tend not to have free choice of their plans, and Obamacare layers on top of that system costly mandates that make no sense.

The Harvard faculty can whine and stew all it likes, but the president has sent an unmistakable message to such malcontents: The law is the law. Harvard won the health-care debate years ago, and there’s no going back on it now.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail:comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2015 King Features Syndicate

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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