No Such Thing As Free Health Benefits

Obama refuses to acknowledge the tradeoffs imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

For the millions of Americans who are losing health plans they liked as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the name of that law is a bitter joke. They do not feel protected, and they often find that the replacement coverage they are forced to buy costs a lot more.

But President Obama has a solution. "We have to make sure that they are not feeling as if they've been betrayed by an effort that is designed to help them," he told NBC News last week. The dishonesty and condescension packed into that sentence help explain why Obama's signature achievement has provoked anger instead of the gratitude he expected.

Here's an idea: If you don't want people to feel that you've betrayed them, don't betray them. Don't promise, dozens of times without qualification, that they will be able to keep their health plans if they like them when you know that is not true.

Here's another suggestion: When you are apologizing for misleading people, don't seek to minimize the significance of your deception. "We're talking about 5 percent of the population," Obama told NBC's Chuck Todd. "It only affects a small amount of the population."

Obama was referring to the 14 million Americans who obtain health insurance through individually purchased policies, which is hardly a small number. According to studies by the Manhattan Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the policies these people find in Obamacare's insurance exchanges typically will cost more than what they have now.

Obama nevertheless claimed "the majority of folks will end up being better off," thanks to the tax credits available through the exchanges. But White House spokesperson Jessica Santillo says most will not be eligible for those subsidies.

Nor is it true that Obamacare's mandates won't affect people who are insured under employer-based group plans, who represent about half the population. Already nearly two-thirds of those plans are not covered by the Affordable Care Act's grandfather clause because their terms have changed since the law took effect.

All told, McClatchy D.C. estimates, "as many as 52 million Americans could lose or have lost old insurance plans." That does not mean they will have no coverage, but they can expect to see benefit changes and rate increases due to Obamacare's minimum coverage requirements.

White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed to promise otherwise last week, claiming that if you are covered through work, "there is no change for you except for an increase in benefits that everyone receives as a result of the Affordable Care Act." If benefit increases cost nothing, why not give everyone the most generous insurance possible?

Enough of this bronze, silver, and gold nonsense. Platinum for everyone! This comical refusal to acknowledge the tradeoffs imposed by Obamacare makes it hard to have a serious discussion about whether those tradeoffs are justified.

"What we intended to do," Obama explained last week, "is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it." This formulation implies that if people resist the option Obama deems better, it's only because they fail to recognize his superior wisdom.

Yet when the government bans what Obama calls "subpar" health plans, policyholders have to pay more, often for benefits, such as maternity or mental health coverage, they do not need or want. Contrary to what Obama says, that mandate is not "designed to help them"; it is designed to help people who want the added benefits and can get them cheaper when others are forced to subsidize the cost.

Likewise, when the government decrees that insurers may not charge sick people higher rates, healthy people make up the difference. When it restricts the extent to which insurers can tie rates to age, premiums for young people rise.

In other words, there are winners and losers under Obamacare. But to hear the president talk, all of us are winners. We just don't realize it.

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  • Snark Plissken||

    "What we intended to do," Obama explained last week, "is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it."

    They had good intentions and that's all that matters. Not that I actually believe them about that.

  • AlmightyJB||

    And in 20 years schoolchildren will learn in their history books that he was the greatest president ever and that before him no one had health care. So he really doesn't give a shit what we think now.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    In 20 years, there will be no schools and, nightly, children will huddle in fear in the ruins of our cities while avoiding the cannibal rape gangs.

  • waffles||

    one can only hope

    I'm guilty of it but I think doomsday fetishism is one of the more perverse aspects of our culture.

  • gimmeasammich||

    At least it makes for entertaining shows on the National Geographic Channel.

  • GroundTruth||

    Or weather channel

  • Vincent Milburn||

    I think people are bored with their lives, so they daydream that some extreme outer circumstance will break their funk.

  • AlmightyJB||

    They will find protection in my monocle factories.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Would they be gangs that rape cannibals, as a vigilante justice measure? Or would they be gangs that bite off your ear while they ....

  • AlmightyJB||

    It wilk be just like Somalia

  • ||

    Libertarian's paradise! All right!

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Status quo for me, then! I moved to the Mog at the suggestion of a bunch of posters at Slate, when I suggested that government has no business telling us what health insurance to buy.

    It is nice here, although the ROADZ are poorly maintained, unlike in the US.

  • Lord Humungus||

    led by Warty, I presume.

  • Spartacus||

    That's the most tone-deaf thing I have heard anybody say in a long time. He's not even trying anymore.

  • pan fried wylie||

    "We have to make sure that they are not feeling as if they've been betrayed by an effort that is designed to help them,"

    He continued, "I mean, they totally are being betrayed, but I didn't intend for and don't want them to feel that way. Which is why I'm proposing an amendment to the PPACA that mandates that people feel satisfied with it."

  • Ted S.||

    We have to make sure they believe being raped by Warty feels like a tantric massage.

  • Swiss Servator, Original Gnome||

    Thanks for that, Ted....I may never sleep again.

  • Ted S.||

    I'd say "you're welcome", but you should be thanking Warty. Or maybe Obama.

  • Doctor Whom||

    He's sorry you feel that way.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Happiness is mandatory, Citizen.

  • Ted S.||

    We're all losers under the plan.

    Well, except for the people raking off the vig.

  • West Texas||

    Truthfully, I think it would have been best - politically - to just make everyone eligible for Medicaid or some other Single Payer. If you're sick and you can't pay for it, you still get care, which is ultimately the stated rationale behind this.

    And if I don't want to get crappy Medicaid care, I should be free to go spend my own money to pay my own doctor out of pocket and to buy my own catastrophic plan for emergencies with no interference from the government.

    Ultimately, the problem here is that they don't care so much about medical care as they care about being good technocrats and tyrants by controlling both patients and doctors to the highest degree possible.

  • wareagle||

    ....I should be free...

    and that's where you want wrong. Obama has judged your premise invalid; therefore, FYTW.

  • wareagle||

    wEnt wrong. dammit

  • Ted S.||

    Obama thinks you're wrong to want what you want.

  • ||

    "Ultimately, the problem here is that they don't care so much about medical care as they care about being good technocrats and tyrants by controlling both patients and doctors to the highest degree possible."

    I think that puts things in a nutshell very nicely.

  • Robert||

    Medicaid isn't so crappy. In fact it's better than a lot of plans that people pay for.

  • H. ReardEn||

    "What we intended to do," Obama explained last week, "is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it."

    Oh, in that case, nevermind the foreseeable consequences. They weren't the intent.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Indeed. Intent is magic.

  • ||

    Oh? So why did you put a mandate in the law instead of effective incentives?

    I am going to hold my breath and wait for a journalist to ask him that on camera.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Because only Obama and his Top Men know what you really, really want.

  • Doctor Whom||

    If benefit increases cost nothing, why not give everyone the most generous insurance possible?

    Right. All right-thinking people know that the government's free stuff truly is free, so give everyone a diamond-pavé-level plan that covers everything from contraceptives to hair looming. While we're at it, raise the minimum wage to the starting salary for an associate at an Am Law 100 firm. Tony will be along shortly to explain to us that this will work splendidly.

  • pan fried wylie||

    raise the minimum wage to the starting salary for an associate at an Am Law 100 firm

    This will synergize wonderfully with the Tax The Rich scheme. Once everybody is rich, they can all pay their Fair Share.

    /proglodyte-economics

  • Pompey||

    Tooooony where are you? Haven't seen you in a while, booster! Come out and play!

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Tony hasn't figured out his retroactive CYA just yet. I expect when he does reappear, it will be under a new screen name.

  • ||

    Maybe his health plan got canceled.

  • Pompey||

    Let the pain rain down fast and hard so we can get on with our lives as soon as possible. Ugh NPR is still running an embarrassing amount of ACA apologia and Obo cock-chugging. It is embarrassing, like when you pknowa halfwit is trying to manipulate you.

  • Doctor Whom||

    When NPR tells us how to feel instead of just what's going on, it can veer off into the truly bizarre. I remember a Two Minutes Hate against the evil mortgage bankers, in which a buyer got no blame for taking on a mortgage payment that would be twice his pre-tax income.

  • sarcasmic||

    On the morning drive NPR was further defending the ACA by saying those who had their coverage cancelled will actually get lower priced insurance, but they don't know it yet because the websites aren't working properly.

  • Rich||

    What?! Their Navigators didn't tell them this?

  • Loki||

    Their Navigators were too busy stealing their identity.

  • JWatts||

    Yes, that's what they said. I laughed out loud in the car. Somehow it completely whooshes over their head that a 25% subsidy on a plan that is 80% higher than your previous plan is not a good deal!.

  • GroundTruth||

    I used to listen to NPR all the time.

    Then I got better.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Hopefully the ramifications of all this will render long term policital damage to liberals/progressives/statists/whatever new label they dream for themselves.

    It's not just the lying and spinning by Obama himself and his various administration mouthpieces, it's the lying/spinning/smugness and sanctimonious self rightousness by the liberal pundits and all the bloggers and posters on message boards who regugitate all their talking points.

    All the bullshit about "substandard" plans not being "real insurance" and the poor benighted public just being too stupid to know it.

    And the bullshit about it being perfectly acceptable to deliberately deceive the public about the effect of Obamacare for the noble greater good/public interest - as defined by them in their superior wisdom of course.

    I hope they keep it up and double down on all that crap. They are chewing their own legs off by it.

  • Rich||

    "We have to make sure that they are not feeling as if they've been betrayed by an effort that is designed to help them."

    Even if one were to grant the president the benefit of the doubt wrt the "dishonesty and condescension packed into that sentence" -- that is, to assume he means the *system* is to be fixed rather than people's *feelings* -- this utterance is yet another example of just how poor a communicator he really is. As the man's signature "achievement" collapses around him and his approval ratings plummet, he is incapable of putting together even a *few* unequivocal nondisingenuous words.

  • wareagle||

    someone else put this word here: schaden-tastic. I believe it means watching the left's belief in the primacy of govt before liberals' very eyes.

    Some folks are getting screwed along the way, but that's consistent with statist policy. The difference is that the pain is hitting the true believers this time around. There's a reason we told you not to put your hand in the fire.

  • wareagle||

    "..watching the left's belief...unravel..before..."

    schaden-spelling apparently.

  • ||

    "...the gratitude he expected."

    That made me laugh. He lied his ass to get the law passed, and is still lying his ass off, because he never expected anything other than what he is getting now. "Just wait, you will see, you will love it" will only work for so long. I think he underestimated the reaction, but it is not unexpected. I believe he thought he and his party could weather the storm, but now that the waves are beginning to break over the bow it is sinking in that they wont.

  • wareagle||

    you can fool some of the people something something.

    That petard has to be a bit uncomfortable at the moment.

  • GILMORE||

    fwiw, a 'petard' was a medieval 'bomb' which was, naturally, not up to modern standards of reliability

    'hoist' actually is more or less what you'd think = 'given a lift'

    nice to think shakespeare found suicide bombers funny before it was even cool

    hamlet has a sad every time he is reminded of his "most misunderstood quote, evah"

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    Yes, the phrase translates into 'blown up into the air by your own bomb'.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "I'm sorry you're too dumb to understand I only want what I believe is best for you, my children."

    And, of course, this morning on Bloomberg the discussion centered on the evil rethuglitards' refusal to just knuckle under to the Law of the Land. If they had not been such a bunch of racist obstructionists, everything would work perfectly, and illness would be a thing of he past.

  • OldMexican||

    Enough of this bronze, silver, and gold nonsense. Platinum for everyone! This comical refusal to acknowledge the tradeoffs imposed by Obamacare makes it hard to have a serious discussion about whether those tradeoffs are justified.


    Freedom from scarcity, by decree! Free replicators for everybody!

    The refusal is indeed comical, but unfortunately only the few of us who know some sound economics are laughing.

  • Sevo||

    "We have to make sure that they are not feeling as if they've been betrayed by an effort that is designed to help them,"

    Yeah, it's just a PR problem. Once Obo gets his staff together, they'll come up with talking points to make everyone feel better. While they bleed.
    Oh, hey, how about "junk insurance policies"? That's a good one!

  • Loki||

    "What we intended to do," Obama explained last week, "is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans that include things like maternity and pre-natal care regardless of gender, or mental health coverage regardless of history of mental illness because they want fuck 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it they're too stupid to know what's best for them anyway, only me and my TOP. MEN."

    A little more honest this way.

    Although I suppose it's a good thing that single men are being forced to purchase pre-natal coverage: you never know when you'll get hit by a bus and get impregnated. I didn't even realize that was a possibility until Tony informed us of it a few weeks ago, so maybe I really didn't know what was best for myself afterall.

  • ||

    But will gay men be forced to buy it equally?

    Seriously, is healthcare free yet?

  • Loki||

    Gay men could also be impregnated by a bus, so yes.

  • FYTW||

    The current progtard talking point about this is, "Well, I had to pay for all Bush's wars that I didn't support! Being forced to pay for shit you don't want is what living in a society looks like!"

  • Sevo||

    How about a dose of paid propaganda, 'your tax dollars at work' division:

    "Two months before enrollment began in the Obamacare exchanges, the administration’s top health care official heaped praise on WebMD for launching an online resource to help Americans navigate the complex law.
    The consumer health care site had the occasional nice thing to say about Obamacare, too. In one article, it predicted doctors might pick up more patients..."

    OK, a lot of 'news outlets' were fooled (or otherwise) by that
    bastard's lies, but:

    "But what neither Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius nor WebMD mentioned at the time was that the company, which millions of Americans regularly read for health news, also stood to earn millions of dollars from a federal contract to teach doctors about Obamacare."

    Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com.....z2kXgJEd4G

  • Loki||

    Yay cronyism!

  • Sevo||

    And, gee, who could have foreseen?:

    "The making of an Obamacare management failure"
    "Inside the West Wing, the explanation is that the things they were worried about didn’t turn out to be their biggest problem. Officials fretted over server capacity, rate shock, premium increases, the readiness of the state exchanges and driving traffic to the site — but not the fundamental health of the website."
    http://www.politico.com/story/.....99777.html

    Yeah, all those are getting screams now, too.

  • Dave Krueger||

    You ungrateful libertarian bastards should learn to appreciate it when government eliminates the time, effort, and anxiety of having to figure out what to do with your annual income.

  • G3||

    Here's another suggestion: When you are apologizing for misleading people, don't seek to minimize the significance of your deception. "We're talking about 5 percent of the population," Obama told NBC's Chuck Todd. "It only affects a small amount of the population."

    Additionally, it actually means something when you apologize for your wrongdoing, and not, as the president seems to believe, our collective 'mis-perception' of his comments (which were by no means ambiguous)

  • BobbyF||

    "We have to make sure that they are not feeling as if they've been betrayed by an effort that is designed to help them."

    I don't want help! I went to school and got a good job that offers healthcare (even though I pay dearly for it). Now I realize that "I didn't build that", however, I would still like to be left to manage my life as I see fit.

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