Mad as Hell … about Obamacare Repeal.

January 7, 2017

Mad as Hell … about Obamacare Repeal.

Why? you say. Or, Just another Liberal who can’t accept a loss? I’ll explain what has me torked off just now—I was pretty equanimous about the whole repeal thing, really—in a bit. Some background first.

Self-employed from 2000 until 2009. Uninsurable from 2006 on, dependent on a state-sponsored program for small businesses. (Uninsurable, for some of my R friends, means No. Policies. Available. Without. Exclusions. For. My. Health. Issues. None, at any cost. For reals.)

I joined a fine law firm in January 2010. Health insurance mattered, although I’d have gone even if insurance was not an issue. I worried about my insurance program continuing. Passage of the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare looked dicey for many reasons. That the bill became law was a big effing deal.

I left the law firm in September 2015, for I’m better suited to self-employment. I need to be clear about one thing, though: Without Obamacare (or a real substitute), I cannot work for myself.

Obamacare has issues, for sure. (When you tinker with 16% of a national economy you’ll make mistakes, get surprises, and have to make adjustments.) That said, nostalgia for pre-Obamacare days, on the part of my R friends, amuses me. Many ranted the loudest about insurers. ER wait times. Incomprehensible bills. They—and those who they support in the government—had no answers back then and no evident interest in addressing the issue. Now? As we will see in a few paragraphs, we see nothing, but for platitudes about free markets and no government involvement.

As for the Obamacare, the problems can be fixed. Insurers have raised premiums or walked away from certain markets because Congress took away the subsidies which protected insurers against early year pricing uncertainties. Not enough healthy young people have signed up because the penalties are not large enough. And subsidies for insureds surely need to be tweaked. In a functioning government, all of this happens. Not so much when Congress repeals Obamacare more than 50X, knowing not one of their efforts will succeed. (The House had a vote early in 2015 because newly elected R members had not yet had a chance to express themselves formally on the issue.)

So here we are, on the brink of repeal, with no plans for a replacement. Give them a chance, say many. Uh, the Rs in Congress had seven years to come up with a plan. They promised one, repeatedly. Life goes on, even when your party does not control the White House. When you’re elected, you’re supposed to be ready to govern.

Truly laughable are some of the R positions on the issue. Congressman Bill Huizenga wants people to wait a day, before they seek health care, because that worked for his son’s broken arm. (President Gerald Ford must be rolling over, for people wrongly claimed he lacked smarts, and this guy represents his old House district.) Then there’s Repeal … and Wait, which totally ignores how markets react to governmental signals.

Best of all? We want to keep the good parts, like no pre-existing condition exclusions, and no lifetime caps. OK, but why do those people who advocate for a free market think insurers will accept an all-comers market, when healthy people can choose not to be insured? Seemingly, they don’t care. Don’t care? That seems harsh, you say. Well, a few days ago Senator John McCain, never known for having lots of candlepower, said:

Insurance companies are the people who signed up to Obamacare. They have no relevance to me. I don’t want to hear from ’em. We’ll devise our own replacement. We don’t need the insurance companies to sign on or AMA.

Sorry, Senator McCain, but for so long as you are committed to a free market, you might want to talk to insurers, before they all walk away. (This man might have been POTUS, and he won’t talk to insurers because they signed on for Obamacare?)

All right, all right, so what has me mad as hell today? This. H.R. 5, the rules resolution for the 115th Congress, instructs the Congressional Budget Office—a nonpartisan entity, staffed by math and econ people—which works for Congress, to ignore the effect of Obamacare repeal on the federal budget.

I’m mad as hell for three reasons. First, you can bet everything you’ve got that if the Rs in the House thought the CBO repeal analysis might reflect budgetary savings, their rules resolution would include no such directive. (From everything I’ve read, repeal will cost $335B over 10 years.) Second, the CBO exists as an honest broker. When people pick and choose what it will and won’t do, the honest broker role ends. Finally, such action reflects a blatant attempt to fire now, and aim later. And with 18% of our economy—health care spending grows as we age, even as our economy grows—and my health at risk, that’s beyond irresponsible.

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