Dear Senators Udall and Bennet, and Congressman Polis,
As you will soon be faced with a Republican-sponsored vote to repeal PPACA, also known as Obamacare, I’d like to offer you real-world evidence of the impact of government policy — primarily but not entirely federal policy — on the health insurance of a family you represent.
In the televised “Health Care Summit” last February (you remember, that was the meeting where Paul Ryan looked smarter, more prepared, and more presidential than Barack Obama did), President Obama said that the impact of his health insurance reform/assault would be that “The costs for families for the same type of coverage as they’re currently receiving would go down 14 to 20 percent.” Similarly, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus seized on a narrow aspect of a CBO report to claim that “the vast majority of Americans will see lower premiums than they would if we don’t pass health reform.”
These gentlemen were both wrong — Obama spectacularly wrong — as of course they must be. After all, how could anyone claim that premiums would drop when government was piling cost after cost on the insurance companies and unwanted benefit after unwanted benefit on American health insurance buyers.
Thus, it was unwelcome but not surprising news when I learned that my health insurance premium for 2011 was jumping 17% from its 2010 levels. My insurance company, which I’m generally quite happy with, included a pretty color brochure trying to salve the overheating brows of many thousands of angry customers.
This information/propaganda included an explanation of government-required changes to the health insurance plan which increase the plan’s cost by adding “benefits” that I either don’t want or don’t need.
Some of these provisions are due to PPACA, including the ability to keep “children” on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26 and the elimination of “lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits.”
To be sure, it’s not only federal law which is raising my insurance costs. Democrats in Colorado have mandated that insurance policies cover maternity care and contraception. As you might guess, maternity coverage is extremely expensive. Given that I’ve already had a date with a scalpel, it’s extremely unlikely that my wife and I will have more children, so having to pay for insurance to cover child birth is an unnecessary burden.
As the key mental characteristic of “Progressives” is their belief that people are too stupid to make their own economic decisions, I expect you don’t understand that each of these provisions — indeed every provision of any insurance policy — should be the subject of negotiation between the insurance company and the insurance buyer. Yes, some people might want to keep their adult children on their policy and some people might want maternity coverage and some people might want unlimited potential insurance payouts, but many or most people don’t — at least not if there’s a cost.
The mandates of federal and state government are like requiring all Americans to buy a car with every possible option whereas most of us are OK with the base package, or something just above that, for much less money. As Frédéric Bastiat would pose it, Democrats have only focused on that which is seen, namely these “benefits” of coverage, while ignoring that which is unseen, namely that I now have less money available to send my children to a better school, to take a vacation, or even to pay my health insurance deductible.
As if all this isn’t enough, another provision of Obamacare makes it nearly impossible for me to change my family’s health insurance plan. If I try to change, we’re suddenly not “grandfathered” and are then funneled into the very limited and expensive choices remaining to us after Democrats shoved Obamacare down our throats. And even with a grandfathered plan, we only “may” be able to keep our plan after 2014, “when the market will function very differently and health care choices may be limited.”
We used to receive certain preventative medicine services without copayment (as the insurance company has determined that doing so saves them money in the long run), but — surprise, surprise — those provisions are somehow not grandfathered in. Of course they’re not, because the insurance company knows that you have made us their captive, all but unable to change policies or companies without running into the teeth of the growling Nanny State. We are now the insurance company’s prisoner, thanks to PPACA.
You may protest that not all of the huge increase in my health insurance premiums is due to Obamacare. While that’s true, the more important point is that the factors causing the rest of the increase are also due to government, in particular the many ways in which government prevents the functioning of a competitive market in health insurance.
You don’t allow interstate competition of health insurance, a key factor in keeping other forms of insurance, such as automobile insurance, more affordable and more responsive to customers. You tilt the playing field toward employer coverage, doing great disservice to the many self-employed and small businesses in this country. At the state level, mandates to cover everything from in vitro fertilization to hair transplants boost the cost of coverage for millions.
Soon, Obamacare will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. A brief conversation I had with my bank teller, who used to work for a large insurance company, might be instructive. When I asked her if someone who just found out he has cancer should be able to then apply for and receive health insurance coverage, she said “Of course! Everyone has the right to access health care.” After pointing out to her that everyone already does have that right and that it’s not dependent on insurance, I asked her whether someone who just wrecked his car should then be able to apply for and receive auto insurance coverage and use that to get a new car. Her response: “That’s illegal!” — followed by a clear explanation of why that wouldn’t be fair to existing policy holders. In short, sirs, forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions is not “insurance,” it’s welfare.
What binds together all these problems — the majority of the factors behind health insurance price spikes — is actions of government, primarily the federal government, and particularly Obamacare’s intolerable intrusion on the rights of Americans to make and agree to contracts. I strongly urge you to recognize that your allegiance must be to the people you represent and not to the temporary resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. With that in mind, I trust you will support the economically wise and liberty-boosting efforts to repeal this most damaging legislation of my lifetime.
Ross G Kaminsky