another consequence
Last comment by sebekm 7 months ago.

Take Me To Post Comment Form

By Edward Morrissey



The problem with solutions is that few of them tend to be perfect, even if they act in a mostly benign manner. Actions produce reactions, a principle as true in politics as it is in physics, and those tend to multiply when solutions increase in complexity.

The nature of these unintended consequences changes dramatically when complex “solutions” turn out to be poorly designed and incompetently administered.

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has provided many real-world examples of this, but perhaps none so “unintended” as the consequences discovered by the Seattle Times this weekend. Carol Ostrom, The Times’ health reporter, told the story of 62-year-old newlyweds Sofia Prins and Gary Balhorn, who weren’t exactly the models of wild, starry-eyed romantics.

Their nuptials were motivated by a stronger desire to keep their house out of the hands of the federal government, thanks to a little-known key provision of Obamacare. Their meager incomes made them eligible for a federally subsidized health plan, and their assets would be protected.

Does Obamacare actually allow the federal government to seize homes and other assets? Before answering that question, let’s go back to what supposedly motivated the Obama administration and Democrats to pass the ACA in the first place.

For years, Democrats had demanded federal action to address the problem of Americans without health insurance coverage. Estimates of this population went from 14 million to 40 million during the debate in 2009-10 over the scope of the crisis and potential solutions for it.

While those numbers sound large, a Gallup poll in late 2009 put them in better perspective, noting that 85 percent of American adults had health insurance, 87 percent of whom were satisfied with their coverage, and 61 percent satisfied with the costs. Even among the uninsured, half were satisfied with their situation, although only 27 percent expressed satisfaction about their costs for health care.

Instead of designing a solution that focused on the half of the 15 percent who needed better options and leaving everyone else alone, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill insisted on imposing an overhaul of the entire health-insurance industry. This includes, crucially, an unprecedented individual mandate to carry health-insurance coverage. The ACA contains a highly-complex series of subsidies that help working-class Americans pay the now-skyrocketing premiums caused by coverage mandates on insurers, but only down to a certain income level.

Below that point, Americans who do not have employer-based coverage have to accept Medicaid coverage in order to comply with the Obamacare individual mandate, or pay full price for the skyrocketing premiums from private-sector insurers.

People often confuse Medicaid with Medicare, but there is a critical difference between the two programs. Medicare eligibility derives from Social Security contributions, and is a true “entitlement” program. Theoretically, coverage comes as part of the funds paid into the system, although in reality the federal government has to borrow billions of dollars to cover the costs.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is a state-based and federally-subsidized welfare program, one that employs means-testing – which includes ownership of assets as well as income levels. Medicaid programs include conditions that put recipients’ assets remaining after death at risk for seizure to reimburse taxpayers who footed the bill for the recipient’s health care during his/her lifetime.

This was done to prevent fraud, to ensure that limited resources went to the truly needy, and to recapture resources to cover future costs. Until now, though, Medicaid was a voluntary program, and the vast majority of people who entered into it had few assets to risk by signing up.

Here’s where the law of unintended consequences comes into Obamacare. Thanks to the exchange programming, consumers are getting enrolled in Medicaid whether they understand what that means or not, and in much greater numbers than before. (In the first month, nearly 90 percent of all the enrollees in the federal and state exchanges were Medicaid applicants.)

Unless they look at the fine print in the paperwork in Washington and other states with similar asset-forfeiture regulations, any assets they own will not pass to their heirs but to the state instead.

Prins and Balhorn are hardly alone in Washington. Adults between the ages of 50-64 account for 18 percent of the enrollments in the state’s Apple Health Medicaid program, and the seizure regulations apply in their cases for those 55 and older. The state exchange uses only income levels to means-test Washington applicants for the program, which means most of them will have no idea that their assets are at risk until it’s too late.

“People will think this is wonderful, this is free insurance,” Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said in an interview. “They don’t realize it’s really a loan, and is secured by any property they have.”

That’s one of the problems of Obamacare itself – the perception that it’s a free lunch. Even those who do qualify for subsidies get that only through the collection of a myriad of taxes imposed by Obamacare. Those taxes apply to employers, insurers, and medical-device manufacturers, which drive up the costs for consumers and workers in indirect ways. It’s a shell game--not a reform that actually drives costs down. Instead Obamacare only masks price increases through dishonest opacity.

The problem here is the arrogance of the solution itself. Had the Obama administration focused on just those who could not get coverage because of income or pre-existing conditions, they could have expanded Medicaid in an intelligent manner while protecting existing assets, without disrupting the rest of the market.

That might still have been controversial and would not have been cost-free by any means, but it would not have fatally undermined a system that worked for 85 percent of Americans and misled many of the rest into risking their estates without any warning that government would strip their heirs of family homes.

Targeted and modest solutions minimize unintended consequences, and allow for more speed and efficiency when they do arise. Obamacare will serve for decades as the cautionary tale when arrogance rules over modesty and common sense.


Latest Activity: Dec 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM


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sebekm commented on Friday, Dec 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Good info, gacpl. I could write a blog chronicling my experiences (thus far) with ObamaCare's "unintended consequences." Maybe I will - but not today.

I read an interesting article yesterday that talks about how "the Obama people" are discovering how the program really works - and they aren't happy about it. The article is titled "But What Is the Reality of It." It quotes from a NY Times article as follows:

"Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it."

"“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”"

The main article goes on to say:

"Ms. Sweeney’s statement-and-question says it all. It’s the voice of liberalism in the age of Obama. She’s for Obamacare, but didn’t know what it was. Now, Ms. Sweeney realizes (sort of) that she’s been mugged by reality. But she’s not quite ready to come to grips with reality. She’s not quite ready to press charges against Obama, or against liberalism.

But at least she’s asking a reality-based question."

For the entire article, see: http://www.weeklystandard.com/author/...

This article is a snapshot of what's happening now - across the country - as those who blindly supported the President's "signature legislation" are now discovering that they're being "mugged by reality." Many refuse to believe what is happening. But my hunch is that after they spend about six months (or less) with significantly higher premiums and far fewer choices of doctors and health care facilities, they will be forced to see things as they really are.

sebekm commented on Friday, Dec 20, 2013 at 12:51 PM

....and get this story about ObamaCare HEROIN in Massachusetts:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire...

JimmyMack commented on Friday, Dec 20, 2013 at 19:18 PM

When in doubt....throw the dice...

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/...

sebekm commented on Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 at 13:15 PM

I guess now homosexuals have a clear choice between whether to live in Utah or in Uganda:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/wo...

But - unfortunately for the left - homosexuals kissing in Utah does little to lessen the burdens of ObamaCare and its "unintended consequences."

sebekm commented on Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 at 13:50 PM

...and speaking of petitions (and hijacking this blog), this one seems to be "picking up steam":

http://www.faithdrivenconsumer.com/is...

The only "reality shows" I watch are on the History Channel. They are Pawn Stars, American Restoration, American Pickers, and (occasionally) Counting Cars. I can see actual value in these programs - as they either build or fix things, or they actually expose people to the history/historical aspects of this country and our culture. All the rest (to me) are just noise. I guess to each their own. But I never heard of "Duck Dynasty" until this story hit the headlines. This one might be an interesting blog topic for somebody who's cranked up about "biblical quotations" or "freedom of speech," but that somebody won't be me.

sebekm commented on Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 at 13:54 PM

....but back to "unintended consequences." According to this article, the people of Puerto Rico "may not be grappling with the botched Obamacare website rollout, but the program could spell disaster for the island..." See:

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/mone...


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