The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.
Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
Two months ago Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the designers of ObamaCare, predicted that one long-term effect of the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be the near-abolition of employer-provided health insurance. On balance, he argued, the law’s incentives would induce employers to drop their plans and instead increase cash compensation so that employees could buy plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.
This column was skeptical. Our argument was that the horrors of the exchanges would give workers newfound appreciation for their employer plans, increasing the pressure on both companies and politicians to preserve the existing system. To judge by this story in the New York Times, we were right:
Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day–or $36,500 a year–for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.
The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.
The key word here is tax-free: Employers can give raises in lieu of medical insurance, but the former, unlike the latter, are taxable income. “The I.R.S. is going out of its way to keep employers in the group insurance market and to reduce the incentives for them to drop coverage,” Richard Lindquist, president of a benefits software company, tells the Times.
The word that got our attention, though, is dump. It appears in the headline, too: “I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges.” If the New York Times were our only source of news, we’d be very confused right now. (Well, OK, we’d be very confused almost always.) For months the Times has been touting the quality of ObamaCare policies, scoffing at those who liked their previous plans and were victimized by President Obama’s fraudulent promise that they could keep them.
Now all of a sudden the exchanges are a garbage dump? Or is it that the exchanges are a pristine wilderness into which workers are the garbage being dumped?
The Times quotes Obama at a February press conference: “I don’t think that an employer-based system is going to be, or should be, replaced anytime soon,” he said when a reporter asked “whether over the long term you see a future where health insurance is less tied to the workplace.”
You can see why the president would take that position. If employers start dropping medical benefits, the number of people directly victimized by the you-can-keep-your-plan fraud would multiply, and with it Obama and the Democrats’ political problems. Thus the administration is in the ironic position of writing regulations to make sure its “comprehensive reform” isn’t too comprehensive.
Another Times story reveals yet another perverse effect of the law:
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.
The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.
Driving the new policies is the cost of charity care, which is partly covered by government but remains a burden for many hospitals. The new law also reduces federal aid to hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured people, creating an additional pressure on some to restrict charity care.
Especially hard-hit by the reductions, according to the “advocates for the uninsured,” are illegal aliens, who aren’t permitted to buy ObamaCare policies even if they want to. At least Obama has proved Joe Wilson wrong.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reports that “disputes between unions and employers over paying for new costs associated with the Affordable Care Act are roiling labor talks nationwide”:
Unions and employers are tussling over who will pick up the tab for new mandates, such as coverage for dependent children to age 26, as well as future costs, such as a tax on premium health plans starting in 2018. The question is poised to become a significant point of tension as tens of thousands of labor contracts covering millions of workers expire in the next several years, with ACA-related cost increases ranging from 5% to 12.5% in current talks.
Public-sector employers like Septa, the Philadelphia regional transit system, are affected as well as private-sector ones. Septa estimates that the so-called Cadillac tax “will boost its health-care costs by $15 million a year, or 12.5% of the $120 million it currently spends each year on health coverage.” (In our rebuttal to Emanuel, we speculated that this tax may prove especially vulnerable to repeal efforts.)
In some cases unions themselves are on the hook for higher costs, “especially the requirement that health plans expand coverage for dependents”:
For Unite Here, adding that coverage for 14,000 dependents raised costs in the health-care fund run by the union’s Las Vegas local by $26 million since 2011, said union spokeswoman Bethany Khan.
The union plan covers 55,000 workers and 120,000 people in total. Casinos on the Strip have agreed to pay more to meet the higher health-care costs, according to contract summaries.
NPR reports on a Texas man, Nick Robinson, who actually had high hopes for ObamaCare and was disillusioned. After his wife got pregnant last year, he purchased a Blue Cross Blue Shield gold plan for $375 a month:
In January, as soon as the plan began, Nick printed out a list of obstetricians from the plan’s website. “I handed it over to Rachel, fully confident, fully feeling like I had accomplished something for her, I had come through for my wife,” he says. “This whole Obamacare thing was going to work!”
Rachel recalls two days in January when she sat down and called every doctor on the list of 28. According to her, most of the practices told her, in one way or another, that they didn’t take the plan.
“Some would just come right out and say, ‘We don’t take Obamacare,’ ” she says.
“Or the best one was, ‘The doctor takes it here at the actual practice, but whatever hospital you use . . . does not take that insurance.’ ” . . .
“It was mind numbing,” she says, “because I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I’m paying close to $400 a month just for me to have insurance that doesn’t even work. So what am I paying for?’ “
Here’s what: “On April 28, Rachel gave birth–at home, in the giant tub, with no pain medication.” The Robinsons have stopped paying their premiums and are once again uninsured.
Last week, as National Journal reported, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia opined that people don’t like ObamaCare “because they don’t like the president. Maybe he’s of the wrong color.” But there’s no right or wrong color. ObamaCare is just the wrong policy. (Note: this post is from the May 27 BOTW)
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”