Pissed off about Obamacare?
You should be. If you are not yet steaming mad over the ironically-named “Affordable Care Act,” then you must fall into one of three categories: the tiny fraction that will actually benefit from the new law (temporarily, and at other’s expense), those Americans still largely ignorant of its ill effects, or the docile herd of obedient citizens (“sheep-le”) who have been so thoroughly well-indoctrinated by the paternalistic hand of the federal government that one more obtrusive mandate is met with but the mildest irritation before marching dutifully along to the slaughter.
This post is directed especially at my fellow young Americans, the so-called “Millenials” or “Gen X-ers.” Many of us comprised the adoring crowds of Obama enthusiasts who bought right into the vague sentiments of hope and change that carried the most liberal and inexperienced man ever into the Oval Office. We will suffer disproportionately under the burdensome weight of Obama’s policies, not the least of which is the over six trillion dollars in new debt that has been racked up. And we’ve got over three long years left to go.
We will be paying off that expense long after the men and women who authorized it and benefited from it and won elections because of it are dead. It will remain our problem. And when our children are forced to attend underfunded schools and our bridges and roads fall into disrepair and our military lacks the strength to properly defend us against our enemies, our tax dollars will go to pay down the interest of bills racked up by previous generations. Talk about a “head start!”
So not only will Obamacare add billions of new debt to our already out-of-control federal government balance sheet, it will also cause young people to pay more for a good we are statistically the least likely to use—healthcare.
In the contest of generations, healthcare used to be the one advantage young people had over the middle aged and elderly. Older people have had time to establish themselves in careers, to invest in their homes and savings, and to benefit from generous pension plans and Social Security. I’m sure I don’t have to remind my fellow twenty-somethings and even thirty-somethings that starting a life for oneself is hard. Getting that first mortgage is hard, especially if you’re still paying off student loans from college. Trying to pay for diapers and formula and daycare for young children is expensive. As a public school teacher, I have to do all these things on a salary that is 2/3 of what the same teacher in his fifties is making, as just about the only way to get a raise as a teacher is to climb the “years of experience” ladder.
But we have—or I should say, we had—one great advantage over our parents and grandparents: our relative health. Most young people I know rarely ever go to the doctor. One day we may have to deal with cancer or heart disease or type-II diabetes or arthritis, but for many of us, these maladies lie decades into the future. I don’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, as I realize that several of my peers have already battled cancer and other serious health issues. But statistically on a whole, young people use healthcare less and at a much lower expense.
In one study, the Department of Health and Human Services found that “half of the population spends little or nothing on health care, while 5 percent of the population spends almost half of the total amount.” In 2002, the top 5% accounted for 49 percent of overall health spending, or roughly $11,487 per person, while the bottom 50% accounted for only 3% of total spending at a cost of $664 per person. The same study finds that “the elderly (age 65 and older) make up around 13% of the U.S. population, but they consumed 36% of total… expenses.”
The entire premise of Obamacare is that the young and the healthy will be made to pay more so the old and the sick may pay less. This will be achieved in two ways.
First, health insurance companies are limited in how much they may discriminate on premiums between the sick and the healthy and the old and the young, although I’ve already demonstrated that the old and the sick account for most healthcare spending. Insurance companies must now accept patients with pre-existing conditions. How are they expected to cover the cost of the sick but by charging more for the healthy? Insurers are also prohibited from charging older people more than three times the rates of healthy young people. Again: the young pay more so the old may pay less.
At this point, it may even seem fair to say that “Yes, the young and healthy will pay more, but it’s only fair to spread the costs around.” Perhaps, unless you consider the enormous advantage that older Americans still possess in every other economic area—salary, property, retirement benefits, not coming of age in the Obama economy.
But the main way Obamacare hurts the young is by eliminating low-cost policies that don’t provide the sort of comprehensive coverage mandated by the new law. In the past, a twenty-five year old man might have preferred a cheaper policy with a high deductible that doesn’t include all the bells and whistles. Now the ten essential services all plans must cover include maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, and rehabilitation services and devices. And of course, birth control must be provided at no additional cost.
It all sounds good at first… who doesn’t want more coverage?! Until you ask yourself, what about the guy or gal who just wants health insurance in case of emergencies (the original purpose of insurance) and has no need for birth control, maternity care, or addiction treatment? What about people who are celibate, or are physically incapable of having children? What use do they have of maternity care? What about people who live sufficiently healthy lifestyles to not require addiction treatment or mental health counseling? More coverage comes at a higher cost.
Too bad. The government has made the decision of what healthcare coverage you need for you.
The liberal talking heads have countered that “Yes, young people will pay more, but they will also have better coverage!” As if it is up to them to decide. What if I want to eat Hamburger Helper at a cost of $5? Will the government now insist that I purchase $40 filet mignon? After all, it’s better food!
Deductibles in some plans are still $5,000 and $6,000, and bronze plans only cover 60% of costs even after reaching that threshold. With these new realities, it is entirely possible that a young person or family might decide that health insurance does not make economic sense for them any longer. Why pay as much as $1,000 in premiums per month for something that doesn’t even kick in until you’ve already coughed up $5,000? Where is that $5,000 deductible going to come from? May as well save up the money for when it is needed and pay the penalty for not having coverage.
Of course, there are the subsidies, government contributions to make premiums more affordable for low-income people. But even with the subsidies, most young people will still pay more. Also, people who have never had to rely on government largesse in the past will now find themselves dependent on Washington.
But couldn’t that be the very point of it all? Less self-sufficiency, more government dependence. Young people who grew up wanting a good-paying job or to maybe start a business will settle for staying on their parents’ plans until age 26, and after that go on the exchanges and get a first-hand lesson in how to rely on the government for your very well-being.
This brings me back to the three categories I mentioned earlier. Some people, namely the sick and low-income, will benefit initially from government subsidies. But these subsidies will not just appear out of thin air. Government can not give you anything it does not first take from someone else. What happens when that someone else is yourself? We are paying for these subsidies in the form of increased debt and burdensome taxes that have hampered job creation and limited economic growth. What one hand giveth the other taketh away.
Some may still be ignorant of the bad Obamacare news, but my guess is not for long. It’s hard not to notice when something suddenly ends up costing you double what you used to pay.
It is the third category that I worry about. How many young people will just suck it up and pay more, or pay the tax penalty, and go about their business? Just change the channel and try to think about something less maddening and more pleasant. Is this where we are now in this country that once took on the might of the British Empire over essentially a sales tax that seems modest by today’s standards? Perhaps we should change our national anthem from the “land of the free and home of the brave” to represent something more accurate… “the land of the taken care of and the home of the government dependent?” What use are freedom and bravery in these times? Both come with risks that are just too great. Better to just take a number and get in line, DMV style. Because that’s what our healthcare system is about to become.
I pray that we will rediscover the vigor and independence—the audacity, to use Obama’s one-time favorite word—of our founding generations. Maybe Obamacare is just the shot in the arm we need to realize how empty are the promises of big government liberalism and how necessary the call to action.
Ronald Reagan famously said:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in the United States where men were free.”
I fear I that my children will have to hear these stories at an Obamacare nursing home from my parents and not myself. Unless the government decides—as they almost inevitably do—that the elderly and sick are in fact too costly to keep alive. Then we will have indeed come full circle, as both the young and the old will suffer under the increasing equality of socialist misery.