Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Obamacare is a ticking time bomb for Democrats.

Forget the Romper Room politics being practiced by Republican members of the House  and a cut rate demagogue like Ted Cruz. Forget the  congenital lies told by Republicans and the Tea Party about Obamacare or any kind of health care reform.  Forget the anarchistic government shut down by right wing juveniles who think they can undermine an election because they didnt get their way. And  also forget the lies and snake oil being spread by Obama and left wing sycophants like ThinkProgress, DailyKos, MoveOn and other so called "progressive" groups who lie and distort the facts in trying to defend Obamacare as much as the Tea Party and Republicans lie in trying to stop it.

This is about facts as related to Obamacare and health care,  nothing less and nothing more, something right wing Republicans, journalists like Chuck Todd, David Gregory and Wolf Blitzer and others covering Washington, or the aforementioned blind supporters of Obama and their web sites choose to ignore, either because of the right wing's blind hatred of Obama or people who call themselves "progessives" equally blind support of Obama and hatred of the right with the always fearful mainstream news media standing in the middle staring at their shoes.

While the Republican shut down of government is sure to blow up in their faces because they oppose any healthcare reform at all, the first thing to keep in mind about Obamacare is that nothing that is the product of corruption, bad motives, lack of principle and sheer dishonesty can ever have a good outcome, whether its a marriage, a promotion, or getting a job. And Obamacare and it's sell out of the public healthcare option to the health insurance lobby is a product of all that.


Obamacare is not, as many media outlets and sycophants report, Obama's signature legislative achievement. It is the opposite and represents Obama's biggest and most significant failure, a sell out of the public healthcare option for which he campaigned, promised,  had the votes in congress to pass and which was supported by a substantial majority of Americans and could have become law, but was dropped because Obama at the last minute caved in to the health insurance lobby. Look at the photo above. In every town hall meeting prior to this photo the banner behind Obama read: "Healthcare Reform". But when Obama sold out to the insurance companies in a back room deal at the White House in August of 2009 without telling anyone, the banner was quietly changed to "Health Insurance Reform". He hoped no one would notice. And no one did.

The public option was the closest thing to universal healthcare that was possible at the time and would have created more good for more people, and created more justice for more people than anything since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also would have been a boon to the economy for many reasons.  And as conservative Ben Stein pointed out on CNN, universal healthcare is not a liberal idea. It was something Richard Nixon tried to implement in 1973. 

Obama had the votes to pass the government run public option in 2009 and in fact the Democratically controlled House did pass it,  but it never came to fruition because Obama wouldn't stand up to the health insurance lobby who were against it and instead replaced the public option at their urging with what is now known as Obamacare. 

For those who don't know, Obamacare was and is a bill written almost in it's entirety by and for the health insurance industry lobby and as such almost all the real benefits goes to insurance companies not people, which will be detailed below.

For anyone who doubts this or thinks this is an exaggeration or the kind of cheap political hyperbole common in politics on both sides,  watch the PBS Frontline documentary on Obamacare and how it came about which chronicles Obama's cave in to the health insurance lobby and how the health insurance lobby itself essentially wrote the law that is now Obamacare. There is even an interview with the health insurance industry's chief lobbyist who not only admits they were instrumental in writing the bill but says how pleased she was with the outcome.

This outcome is the product of one of the worst political sellouts in history by both Obama, Nancy Pelosi  and Harry Reid who said repeatedly during the completely unnecessary and disastrous health care reform debate that "the public option is the centerpiece of healthcare reform".  Pelosi betrayed her own conscience, convictions, Democrats in the House and the American people by going along with Obama's plan to drop the public option and she supported the health insurance lobby replacement known as Obamacare.

The original bill had the same health insurance exchanges that are being set up now. But one of the choices on the exchange was going to be the government run public health care option.  The insurance companies didn't want to compete with that and Obama, Pelosi and Reid all obliged and the public option was dropped.

In light of the relentless cheerleading of Obamacare by "progressive"  groups and web sites like MoveOn, DailyKos and ThinkProgress, and the administration itself,  its important to keep in mind that days before the senate vote,  that right wing extremist Tea Party Republican rabble rouser, Howard Dean, former Democratic candidate for president, former governor of Vermont, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a physician,  called  Obamacare  "junk" .  He said Democrats should "junk it" and start over with the public option. One other person of prominence, social responsibility and integrity said exactly the same thing -- Warren Buffet.  Buffet predicted in 2010 that Obamacare would be a disaster and said as did Dean that it should be junked and that Democrats should start over.

Two days before the senate vote which would only have required only 51 votes since the bill  was going to be voted on using reconciliation, 55 senate Democrats came out publicly to say they would vote for the public option in an attempt to give Obama some backbone. The operation was a failure.

Immediately after the vote on Obamacare, after  Obama had put congressional Democrats' back to the wall  forcing them to either vote for it or go home empty handed,   Senator Tom Harkin, was asked how he felt about passing the bill. His answer? "It's better than nothing". Senator Bernie Sanders said the same. And that was the overall feeling among the Democratic senators who voted for it as were most of the demoralized Democratic members of the House who were virtually forced into voting for it by Pelosi.

The political aftermath of passing Obamacare instead of a public option was exactly as I had predicted months before in a column where I wrote when it became clear that Obama was going to drop the public option,  that if Pelosi and Reid didn't take the reins, take the issue away from Obama and pass the public option anyway,  Democrats would get wiped out in the 2010 elections. Pelosi and Reid didn't and Democrats did, suffering the worst political defeat of any party in 80 years. And to this day many Democrats are in denial as to why.

And as recently as this year, before the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Obamacare's constitutionality, Howard Dean said that he hoped the court would over turn it and rule it unconstitutional again calling it junk and said Democrats needed to start over and return to trying to pass a public option.  Warren Buffet said much the same thing.


Let's see why all this talk about insurance premiums being "lowered" and how wonderful it is now that people are able to get "affordable" insurance and "quality care" and how great Obamacare is going to be is exactly what Howard Dean and Warren Buffet said it was -- junk and represents a missed opportunity for real reform.

First, President Clinton correctly and distinctly defined one of the biggest problems that have plagued America when it comes to health care and that is health care costs and its drain on the U.S. economy. Clinton pointed out that 60% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are the result of health care costs. The Big Three auto makers have stated that one third of the cost of building a car in America are health insurance costs. The problem with Obamacare? It does nothing to solve this problem. Michael Weinberg, a consultant who is helping businesses deal with the requirements of Obamacare said the law will do nothing to rein in health care costs. Which, for Obama, Nancy Pelosi and those who might have forgotten, was supposed to be one of the primary goals of health care reform.

On the other hand imagine the boon to the economy had there been a government run health insurance option that people could have chosen over private insurance which would have been close to a Medicare for all program giving everyone quality healthcare for little or no cost which would have also brought down the cost of healthcare. It would have meant more money in workers pockets who no longer had to share the cost of insurance premiums. And for businesses that also chose to leave the insurance companies for the public option, a dramatic reduction in the cost of doing business increasing their bottom line, making goods and services less expensive, stimulating demand  and increasing employment. Far from the "job killing" bill Republicans first attached to the public option, it would have increased jobs and at the same time reduced the cost of healthcare. Obamacare will do neither.

What Obamacare will do, is not, as Obama dishonestly claimed, "get health insurance for 32 million people". It's designed to get 32 million new customers for the health insurance industry and enrolling all of them  is on what the entire success of Obamacare depends. The chances are it will never happen. And you will see why.

"Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York" crowed Elizabeth Benjamin, vice president with the Community Service Society of New York. " it's not bargain basement prices, but we're going from Bergdorf's to Filene's".

That's great isn't it? What a triumph. People who do not have health insurance because they can't afford it are now being told by Obamacare that they have to go out and shop at Filene's and oh, don't worry, if you are really in financial straights we'll help you with some subsidies. The problem is, as will be shown, they will have to pay Filene prices and, if they enroll, get garage sale quality.

The bottom level insurance plans now being offered, silver plans, the cheapest tier which comes in at around $320 a month, didn't exist a year ago. They were written specifically by the health insurance industry to be offered on the exchanges specifically for Obamacare.  And what these proponents of Obamacare who are crowing about how "cheaply" you can now buy insurance don't tell you is what you get for the money. Which is practically nothing, with high co-pays and high out of pockets and deductibles that can,even for low end plans be as high as $6,000. And on top of that offers extremely limited choices of providers.

 So with the success of Obamacare depending on the 32 million healthy young people who now don't have insurance primarily because of cost coming in to the market,these people, on the lowest end,  are asked to spend $3600 a year out of their pockets in premiums for the privilege of having to spend another $6,000 in co-pays and out of pocket deductibles before they see any real benefits and severely limits what medical facilities and doctors they can see.  Even at the lowest end of the spectrum and with government subsidies the deductibles are at a minimum, $2,000  on top of the monthly premiums and which includes co-pays. So why wouldn't a presently uninsured healthy person just continue to do what most of them do now if they need medical attention and can't afford it --  go to an emergency room where the law says they have to be treated with or without insurance.

The New York Times even in trying to carry water for Obamacare admits:  " The least expensive plans,  some offered by newcomers to the  market may not offer wide access to hospitals and doctors experts predict".

'Not offer wide access"  on the lower tier plans is a gross understatement. In California the best hospitals and doctors are all excluded from the cheaper plans. Cedars Sinai is excluded as are all California university hospitals like UCLA Medical Center and USC Medical Center. In the small state of New Hampshire almost every top clinic and hospital is excluded from the cheaper plans on which Obamacare depends, and in many cases anyone purchasing the least expensive plans will have to drive more than an hour to get to a facility that is included in the plan.

These cheaper plans, written exclusively for Obamacare are going to go largely unwanted once people see what they cost and what they are not getting for their money, money they couldn't afford to spend on health insurance in the first place. Obamacare's success is predicated on those 32 million  signing up and buying up these low end plans. If they don't Obamacare falls to pieces.

As for lowering insurance rates at the mid and upper level policies one man in New York talking to the New York Times said he now pays $18,000 a year for a high deductible policy for a family of three. He said in the interview that he would be reluctant to part ways with his current insurer after looking at what was being offered in the mid level policy range and was "disappointed" that even the least expensive plan offered by Oxford, his current insurer, will cost about as much as he pays now.

At the same time, The NY Times praised Obamacare for reducing the cost of insurance ( not healthcare) but also pointed out that "the provision is designed to bring in a flood  of young healthy people into the insurance pools which helps reduce the cost of coverage for older and sicker enrollees".

Robert F. Frank writing in the Business section of the Times pointed out that for Obamacare to "have a chance at working everyone must be all in, all the presently uninsured" must be willing to shell out at least the $308 a month for the cheapest plans which is going to offer practically nothing of real value and require high deductibles. So it is likely there is not going to be any "flood".

There are indications that under Obamacare a family of four in New York will still pay $24,000 a year in insurance premiums. Compare that to the public option which would have cost people virtually nothing and Obamacare becomes one of the greatest examples of bait and switch of all time, something even the  most unscrupulous used car salesman would be too embarrassed to pull. And remember again, this bill was written largely by the health insurance lobby as chronicled by PBS' Frontline. So it should come as no surprise.

So why does the NY Times and those "progressive" web sites keep extolling the virtues of  Obamacare and cheap insurance and keep  forgetting that it was the insurance companies who were the problem in the first place? And why do they keep forgetting that the public option was supposed to be the solution to insurance company abuses and ridiculously high costs? Ask them.

While the Times and "progressive" web sites continue to crow about the virtues of Obamacare  reducing the cost of insurance let's look at facts as put out by the Obama administration itself  and decide if this sounds like a good deal or snake oil:

For a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 a year the cheapest plans will vary widely with premiums for the second cheapest plan averaging $600 a month in Arizona, $800 a month in Georgia, $961 a month in Indiana, $1,069 a month in Mississippi, $859 in New Hampshire, $943 in New Jersey and $656 in Utah. Getting all misty eyed yet over how wonderful it all is?

Can you imagine living in Mississippi, earning $50,000 a year, having a family of four and yet still have to shell out $13,000 a year for health insurance? Are you kidding? For a plan that will exclude seeing the best doctors and hospitals in your state because they wont be included in the plan's network? And this is what Obamacare supporters are crowing about? This is supposed to be reform? This is supposed to be affordable for people looking for cheap plans?

Even with all the subsidies a single person making $25,000 a year will have to pay almost $1800 a year in health insurance premiums they are not paying now for the privilege of what? Driving an hour to get to a doctor or clinic that will take the plan and then paying a high co-pay and deductibles that can be as high as $6,000 a year?

The other thing no one is saying is that these monthly rates state by state are average rates.
"Average" means in New York for example, someone living in New York City is going to pay 80% higher than someone living in Rochester - $611 a month in New York city compared to $337 in Rochester.  So don't be fooled by these $308 a month low tier premiums averages for plans offering  tire iron colonoscopies. Those are averaged out.  So even within the city of Rochester the cost of premiums can range from a low of $218 a month to $366 depending on precisely where you live,  which gives the $337 average.

Again, compare that to the public option which would have cost people practically nothing and you see why Howard Dean and Warren Buffet both called Obamacare junk and said it should be scraped and Democrats should start over.  And why this might be the greatest domestic policy failure by a president in history, all of which was avoidable if Obama had stuck to his promise for real reform and not caved in to the insurance companies.

You don't have to side with Republicans who want no healthcare reform at all to want to see Obamacare junked and replaced with a public option. And any Democrat who doesn't distance themselves from what has all the makings of a disaster and fiasco and who doesn't get out in front of this and start talking about returning to a public option which is what should have been passed in the first place,  is going to be in very deep water.

Most of the uninsured, when they see what they are being offered from these bottom tier insurance plans that will cost anywhere from $1800-$3600 a year depending on the subsidies they qualify for and offer  limited providers and high out of pockets, will prefer to keep their money in their pocket and go to an emergency room for free treatment if  necessary. And  if that happens Obamacare will fail completely. And if Democrats don't distance themselves from all this before that happens,  Obamacare could send the entire Democratic party to the emergency room politically.


Even the Huffington Post, a long time cheerleader for Obama just published a study that confirms just about everything presented here. And they practically accuse Obama of lying at worst, misrepresenting at best, in his statements about what people, both insured and currently uninsured will be able to get for their money under Obamacare. After additional research and fact checking, Huffington Post confirms that people purchasing the lowest tier level of health insurance, will still end up having to pay on average 40% of their health care costs out of their own pockets on top of the additional monthly premiums, deductibles and co-pays under the health care plans offered by insurance companies on the Obamacare exchanges.

The article is called " Obama Makes Slippery Claims On Health Care Law". It's worth reading and can be found following the link provided here.

UPDATE: Today, October 22, more than three weeks after this article first appeared, CNN is doing a feature story on how Obamacare is proving to be unaffordable for the very market it was aimed at, citing many of the figures shown here, including lowest end policies costing upwards of $337 a month that come with a $6,000 deductible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow - you nailed it. A pleasure, a real pleasure to read. Truth is so satisfying.