Before too long, this business of people not being able to fill out the online forms will be fixed. The inconvenience — including some resulting difficulties of more moment — will be all but forgotten. Instead, we will focus on other sometimes intended and sometimes unintended consequences of this incompetently created program that will leave virtually none of us untouched.
Here is some of what’s coming or is already here:
• Canceled insurance policies. President Barack Obama said repeatedly that people could keep their insurance policies if they wanted, and, as an NBC News investigation notes, had to know better when still spouting off. The cancellations to date are put at something like 1.5 million. The final number could be 16 million. The chief reason is that Obamacare called for more coverage than these policies provide, even though surveys have shown that something close to 90 percent of the 85 percent of consumers are satisfied with the policies they have.
• Higher premiums. When those policies are canceled and people need to pay for a policy providing more services, they’re going to get hit with a much stiffer bill if they’re not among the subsidized. It will be especially high if they are also young and healthy and therefore needed to help pay for those subsidies and the care of others who are sick. CBS News interviewed a woman who said she had been paying $54 a month and now has to pay $591. I guess she’s not one of those Americans Obama was talking about when he said the average premium would go down by $2,500 a year by the end of his first term.
• Taxes, taxes and more taxes. Higher premiums is just one way Americans will pay for a program that government accountants say will boost health spending by more than $600 billion over the next decade. We will have $1 trillion in new taxes. One of them is the medical devices’ 2.3 percent excise tax that’s already costing jobs as companies lay people off. There will also be higher prices for the devices, less research and less innovation, it has been argued.
• A doctor shortage, hospitals in trouble. We already have too few doctors. Obamacare may prompt early retirements and will bring in more patients through more insurance. An aging population does not help, although some of those elderly on Medicare aren’t going to be treated by doctors who would lose money that way. To pay for Obamacare, Medicare fees were reduced. Obamacare regulations are already making things tougher for hospitals in a host of ways and are among factors cited in hospital layoffs, hospitals being sold and a closing.
• Too little finally accomplished. Yes, there is an upside to Obamacare — people getting more easily available care along with protection from lifetime debt through finally gaining insurance coverage. There’s a problem. It’s a half-baked approach that, despite all its complications, intrusions, expenses and more, will still leave 30 million uninsured over the next decade. Interesting proposals have been made for prudent, basically simple, relatively inexpensive means to do what most needed to be done.
There’s more, lots more, such as some industries reducing working hours to avoid having to purchase unaffordable insurance required for those working 30 or more. But let’s sum up by saying the Obamacare problem was hubris, ideological fixations, taking on too much, doing too much secretively, making bad deals and telling lies. The best answer is honesty, reconsideration and refashioning that means something. Only one thing will get us there: a public that demands it.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.