Obamacare’s promise that no one will have to give up insurance they are perfectly happy with is proving to be a huge lie. Not only are individuals being forced to get new policies. Small businesses like ours, which always have tried to do the right thing and provide insurance free to all full-time employees, are being forced to abandon tried-and-true private insurance and offer instead insurance, often with less benefits, obtained through the government.
Since 2010, the government has offered tax credits as incentives or rewards to small businesses that care enough about their employees to pay all (as we do) or a substantial portion of their employees’ health insurance expenses.
We’ve always provided insurance at no cost to employees — not because of tax incentives but because it was the right thing to do. Pragmatically, it also gave us an edge in recruiting and retaining top workers. Given the spiraling cost of health care, due in part to governmental bureaucracy, it wasn’t always easy to do, but the 2010 tax credits just about offset the rising costs.
Now, out of the blue, comes a new requirement of Obamacare: If we and other small businesses want to continue receiving the credit next year, we will have to cancel our private insurance and switch to a policy offered — often at a higher price, often with less benefits — via the government. We can’t even tell exactly how the costs and benefits will change because the website containing this information hasn’t been working.
What we do know is that the government is using Obamacare as yet another excuse to mess with free market rates and do more than a bit of social engineering. Premiums for older workers and women will be artificially lower than they would be on the free market, while rates for younger men will be artificially higher to subsidize the premiums of those who, actuarially, are likely to have higher medical expenses. Young, relatively affluent males — the only group it is still politically correct to make disparaging jokes about — take it in the teeth yet again.
The same rationale is behind why we and our employees are being forced to change from insurance we were perfectly happy with. People who haven’t had insurance for several years tend to be less healthy and tend to have higher health care costs. If Obamacare put only such people in the new government-endorsed policies, rates would have to be higher.
Instead, our healthy employees — and those at similar businesses that always did the right thing — will end up paying the price, subsidizing what would under the free market be much higher rates for the heartless companies and reckless individuals who thought it more important to pay for golf clubs, flat-screen TVs and shiny pickups than it was to provide health care for their family. They knew government would eventually bail them out by sticking it to those who actually worked to ensure their own future, and sure enough, government has done just that.
The real problem is not with the Obamacare law but with how those rules are interpreted by petty bureaucrats thousands of miles away from ever having to worry about meeting a payroll or responsibly leading a family.
Obamacare has become like the U.S. Postal Service — a good idea, with many good people working locally to achieve its ends but hamstrung by a bureaucracy that insists on one-size-fits-all solutions that sound great academically and strive to achieve all manner of social good but don’t work in the real world.
That’s not to say that our do-nothing senators and congressmen are right to hold everything hostage to grandiose delusions about repealing Obamacare. Rather, they should accept that Obamacare is coming and fight not to repeal it entirely, but to help protect it from the bureaucratic interference and edicts that manage to screw up virtually everything the government does.
— ERIC MEYER