Phil-osophically Speaking: November 22, 2013


Hang On, Help Is On Its Way

We’re from the government and we’re here to help you. These ten most feared words in the English language viciously pound the eardrums in the wake of the egregious Obamacare rollout. Every step menaces with pitfalls and booby traps of higher premiums, higher deductibles, co-pays, penalties, mandates, hidden taxes and subsidies. It’s an awful mess with the Democrats hoping that a civil war for the soul of the Republican Party distracts public attention from this never ending boondoggle.

While the Republican Party has been making a yeoman’s effort to stab themselves in the back at a time they should be reaping benefits from the health care meltdown in Washington, no amount of bickering within the GOP can overshadow the calamity afflicting the president and his party over what was supposed to be the crowning achievement of his administration. Enrollment rates for the eponymously named Obamacare have been shatteringly low. At least 12 Democratic senators running next year in Red States have charged the White House as if they were the French demonstrators storming the Bastille in 1789. The guillotines have not yet been deployed, but knives are sharpened to cut ties with the president over Obamacare if a quick fix is not imminent. None of these senators wants to have the angry, minatory index finger of the electorate rudely pointing at them for screwing up their health care plan. Senators tend to like their jobs and the country does not seem to like any part of Obamacare, at least this side of Sandra Fluke and her free contraceptives.

Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters that might escalate into the millions have been sent to people who have been repeatedly assured from the highest levels of our government not to worry with the consoling mantra: “If you like your health plan you’ll be able to keep your health plan.” I’m reminded of an old acquaintance who warned me that when you’re being advised in the most avuncular manner not to worry — start worrying.

The angst over this whole debacle is entirely understandable since the mandarins in the nation’s besieged Capital have to explain the bizarre paradox of how a law that was ostensibly designed to cover the uninsured is now cancelling far more people’s insurance coverage than it is signing up. People still don’t understand that government creates nothing, it can only redistribute. Obamacare is but another massive transfer of wealth, a coerced sharing where assets will be ineptly extracted from working Americans and ineptly applied to a subculture that cannot provide for itself.

Because of Obamacare, millions of people will have to find new insurance. Embarrassments redound like the 60-year-old man getting maternity coverage and a host of other ludicrous arrangements assaulting the etiquette of common sense. No wonder the Democrats are blanching over the prospect of fulminating voters hissing at them like a nest of adders. The public has been misled, even lied to and lied to repeatedly. Even The Los Angeles Post, a bastion of old fashioned liberalism, gave the president four Pinocchios (the highest rating for disingenuousness) for his false assurances. The headache in amending Obamacare is that the glitches in the system are the actual features of the law. To rectify its shortcomings requires one to change the fundamentals with legislation. This was easier to do when Obamacare was still in the Platonic realm of ideas; but now it’s a cold, hard, and utterly indigestible fact.

Even compliant insurance companies working with the Administration can hardly fix the problem without increased subsidies. But how does the president do that without being undercut by his own party? It’s a very dicey proposition for a president facing a midterm election in his last term and it’s hard to see how he extricates himself, despite his adoring press, from this quagmire of his own making without suffering serious political damage.

I’m not saying this is the end of Obamacare; Republicans have hardly been shining exemplars of carpe diem. The government shutdown was a poor tactic exhibiting a disreputable ignorance of history. As they say in Kentucky, there is no education in the second kick of a mule. Nor have Republicans provided a compelling alternative to the proposed single payer health care system, a kissing cousin of socialized medicine, (though John McCain’s healthcare reforms were the best thing about his failed presidential run) to herd the stampeding masses into their own corral. They’ve been tardy and docile in the face of huge bureaucracies expensively rationing healthcare.

The idea of government serving as a protective womb of civil society was scoffed at centuries ago by John Locke. The great political philosopher was beguiled by the notion that those who have escaped the perils of what Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan called “a state of nature” (pre-civilization) would find security in embracing the supreme power of a ruling class. In speaking of these elites Locke incredulously asks, “Are men so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by polecats and foxes but are content, nay think it safety to be devoured by lions.”

Like our beautiful beaches after Superstorm Sandy, self- government in the United States is tragically eroding. While government managing one-sixth of our economy via health care is a terribly risky and costly proposition, I nevertheless recognize that our health care system needs reform and that everything about Obamacare isn’t bad. The idea that insurance companies should not cancel policies when people become sick and that health care provisions for the poor should be provided are both right and humane. But we shouldn’t be pricing health care through Medicare. What’s needed is a regulated free market; one where parameters are drawn to prevent abuse and in which patients purchase high-deductible insurance and seek competitive prices from competing doctors for non-catastrophic care, unadulterated by third party involvement. Moreover, as a concomitant to a public policy promoting private initiative, we should immediately eradicate the prohibition on purchasing out- of- state health insurance. Such a measure would multiply opportunities for consumers by expanding coverage and lowering costs.

The notion of a Free Lunch is a fiction; with Obamacare it has now become a horror story on steroids. It’s time to come clean, stop the bleeding and get the medical treatment the country needs and deserves.

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