Listening to the Republican rhetoric on ‘Obamacare‘, one would think that the end of the American economy is at hand. Unfortunately, the republican message is the only one being heard at the moment, and I’ve discovered it’s the most widely understood. Having world in healthcare for many years, I know the need for universal health coverage. I’ve written about the disparities in our commercial healthcare system before. I know a change is needed. With the release of healthcare plan details to companies (and thus to their employees), dialog about what’s next in health insurance payments has, for once, become a hot topic. The disturbing thing… the Republican talking points are almost exclusively the ones echoed by my fellow coworkers and friends. And it’s not a local phenomena. The democratic view, or even the facts of the law itself, are completely unknown. The potent mixture of lies with truth, easily digestible doom-and-gloom speculation, and bombastic spectacle (Think…Sen. Cruz), not only makes people take notice and listen, but makes for good TV. On top of that, the truth about the upcoming economic shakeup in healthcare is not necessarily a pretty story in the short-term. Easy fodder for republicans, and uphill battle for Obamacare supporters.
The truth… making changes to any free-economic system is like throwing a rock into a pond. It creates ripples, but eventually the ripples fade. When the marketplace opens and the individual mandate goes into effect, you can be sure political pressure and strategy will drive traditional insurance companies rates higher to force companies to contribute (in multiple ways) to political efforts to overturn laws. This has already begun. People, in response, will then drop their traditional plans and go to the lower marketplace prices. Then, normal economic pressure will force traditional plan’s prices to drop, incentives to companies will be offered, and employees will return to employer-sponsored plans. Companies will learn to game the system, benefits will go down and prices slowly rise. Employees will find better employment elsewhere forcing other economic changes. As companies change their behavior again, smaller insurance providers will learn new games they can play on the system, scandals ensue, lessons learned, etc. Enrollment will very back and forth in this way for some time. In the short term, the employees and unemployed will be paying more. Money for subsides have to come from somewhere: So taxes will flux with the employment rates. But, the ripples will eventually subside. That is the cost of this type of transition- From a system the rest of the industrialized world considers barbaric or even criminal. Don’t like it? Imagine going to single-payer. Would the be worse? Or Better? Of this, I’m honestly not sure.
The odd thing about this mess is that is isn’t truly a free-market system. There’s seems to be a hidden player here. We pay for health insurance. The insurance pays for our health costs. Health care payments pay to save our lives, so we can pay for more health insurance. The new mandate means that more people MUST now buy health insurance, like-it or not. In a normal economic system, this would be a boon for health insurance companies and health providers; More money coming in for both. The law also allows companies NOT to provide healthcare to employees, for a fee that is much less than the cost of the healthcare itself. Boon to short-sighted employers. Who gets hurt? Not middle-class to wealthy workers already receiving health insurance, or able to afford purchasing it without financial harm. And, I don’t want to hear griping about the poor and unemployed. They’ve been receiving Medicaid and AssureCare benefits for generations already. Can’t start complaining about that now. The lower-middle class… the working poor… have employer-sponsored health plans in general. Only the poorer workers without health insurance must deal with marketplace government subsidies and sliding-scale plans that whose costs will be spread-out through taxes. This was expected. However, any theoretical premium increases caused by offering sliding-scale plans would be made unnecessary by greater numbers of forced buyers (and profits) from the mandate. The working poor, working multiple part-time jobs also will still qualify for AssureCare or it’s variant in your state. So, what’s left to be angry about? A demographic of employers with full-time workers offered NO BENEFITS. Full-time employers who are offered no benefits? Would someone really want to make a free-market argument for the rights of companies which should have been destroyed by the free-market already? Obviously not. And now that the marketplace exists, a company’s choice to offer or not offer benefits is moot. So, why the fear over lost benefits and higher costs? Why are costs going-up now, before anything has gone into effect? Insurance companies are complaining, employers are complaining, and the working poor aren’t? Isn’t this Backwards? If it doesn’t make economic sense, something else is making an effect…making noise. The only thing that is changing the market is the allowance of a “market”. Greater competition will financially hurt major traditional insurance companies. Are they the ones driving the rhetoric? Don’t know, but this a different issue.
The point was the message. The fact is, republicans have been much better at marketing, well, everything, post Clinton-years. Democrats seem to have lost the ability to talk in absolutes, which is what people want (even if it’s a lie). You can’t make a flag-waving rally when talking in mathematical formulas. And big number theory- macroeconomics, is all Democrats have. Macroeconomics is not fun. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t make for good TV- and it being drowned-out by the noise.