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Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Welcome to nationalized health care

December 21, 2013

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— The lie of the year, according to Politifact, is “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” But the story of the year is a nation waking up to just how radical Obamacare is — which is why it required such outright deception to get it passed in the first place.

Obamacare was sold as simply a refinement of the current system, retaining competition among independent insurers but making things more efficient, fair and generous. Free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke. Free mammograms and checkups for you and me. Free (or subsidized) insurance for some 30 million uninsured. And, mirabile dictu, not costing the government a dime.

In fact, Obamacare is a full-scale federal takeover. The keep-your-plan-if-you-like-your-plan ruse was a way of saying to the millions of Americans who had insurance and liked what they had: Don’t worry. You’ll be left unmolested. For you, everything goes on as before.

That was a fraud from the very beginning. The law was designed to throw people off their private plans and into government-run exchanges where they would be made to overpay — forced to purchase government-mandated services they don’t need — as a way to subsidize others.

It wasn’t until the first cancellation notices went out in late 2013 that the deception began to be understood. And felt. Six million Americans with private insurance have just lost it. And that’s just the beginning. By the Department of Health and Human Services’ own estimates, about 75 million Americans have plans that their employers would have the right to cancel. And millions of middle-class workers who will migrate to the exchanges and don’t qualify for government subsidies will see their premiums, deductibles and co-pays go up.

It gets worse. The dislocation extends to losing one’s doctor and drug coverage, as insurance companies narrow availability to compensate for the huge costs imposed on them by the extended coverage and “free” services the new law mandates.

But it’s not just individuals seeing their medical care turned upside down. The insurance providers, the backbone of the system, are being utterly transformed. They are rapidly becoming mere extensions of the federal government.

Look what happened just last week. Health and Human Services unilaterally and without warning changed coverage deadlines and guidelines. It asked insurers to start covering people on Jan. 1 even if they signed up as late as the day before and even if they hadn’t paid their premiums. And is “strongly encouraging” them to pay during the transition for doctor visits and medicines not covered in their current plans (if covered in the patient’s previous — canceled — plan).

On what authority does a Cabinet secretary tell private companies to pay for services not in their plans and cover people not on their rolls? Does anyone even ask? The bill itself is simply taken as a kind of blanket authorization for HHS to run, regulate and control the whole insurance system.

As if to make plain who is in charge, late Thursday night the administration did it again. It decreed that those with canceled insurance plans can now buy cheap “catastrophic” plans -- that have been largely banned by Obamacare as inadequate and substandard. And HHS granted these same consumers the unique right to forgo health insurance entirely -- without any penalty, something the insurance companies immediately denounced as destabilizing the risk pools of Obamacare’s own exchanges.

Three years ago I predicted that Obamacare would turn insurers into the lapdog equivalent of utility companies. I undershot. They are being treated as wholly owned subsidiaries. Take the phrase “strongly encouraging.” Sweet persuasion? In reality, these are offers insurers can’t refuse. Disappoint your federal master and he has the power to kick you off the federal exchanges, where the health insurance business of the future is supposed to be conducted.

Moreover, if adverse selection drives insurers into a financial death spiral — too few healthy young people to offset more costly, sicker, older folks — their only recourse will be a government bailout. Do they really want to get on the wrong side of the White House, their only lifeline when facing insolvency?

I don’t care a whit for the insurance companies. They deserve what they get. They collaborated with the White House in concocting this scheme and are now being swallowed by it. But I do care about the citizenry and its access to a functioning, flourishing, choice-driven medical system.

Obamacare posed as a free-market alternative to a British-style single-payer system. Then, during congressional debate, the White House ostentatiously rejected the so-called “public option.” But that’s irrelevant. The whole damn thing is the public option. The federal government now runs the insurance market, dictating deadlines, procedures, rates, risk assessments and coverage requirements. It’s gotten so cocky it’s now telling insurers to cover the claims that, by law, they are not required to.

Welcome 2014, our first taste of nationalized health care.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Ray Parker 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Obama's hope & change campaign has officially become suspicion and distrust.

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Mike Ford 3 months, 4 weeks ago

It helps to go outside the US and see what affordable healthcare looks like. This is about allowing people who need healthcare the ability to afford it. It is a humanistic concern. All one has to do is remember during the GOP Presidential debates when that "Educated and Empathetic????" audience cheered the allowing of a person to die because of no access to affordable healthcare. I've heard over and over about people having to leave to Canada to go the US to avoid waiting periods. I read a book about Canadian immigration a couple of weeks ago at Hastings and the bit that US conservatives leave out when assailing the Canadian Healthcare system was shown in that reading I did. The Canadians have their own conservatives who wreak havoc on their governmental system. One thing their anarchists have done is affect the healthcare system in Canada by creating waiting periods that lead that system to have provider problems much as the you can't have it people down here defund programs and essentially put the car on blocks. Steven Harper is one of these such people. I wish I could profit from peddling fear. Quite a profitable venture in the US.

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Ken Lassman 3 months, 4 weeks ago

It does not matter nationally, either, Mike, since Mr. Krauthammer is a national syndicated columnist. Has corporate ownership of private health insurance disappeared? Far from it, and why he is claiming so is either deliberate deception or self deception to the level that his editors should have called him on it before he released this transparently incorrect column.

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Mike Ford 3 months, 4 weeks ago

this is not government healthcare geniuses. if it was then why I am sending the first payment for my BCBS of Kansas Silver Plan to Topeka this week? it amazes me how many people buy the same malarkey over and over and yet I must realize this is Kansas and facts and reality do not matter here. Keep listening to the fibbers scaring people with the lies.

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Richard Heckler 4 months ago

QUALITY of health care in the USA depends on how much money one can afford for insurance. This should never be the case.

With the insurance industry still receiving more than 1.4 trillion tax dollars annually it is hard pressed to declare Obamacare a nationalized endeavor.

CK is once again speaking out of context and spinning misinformation beyond belief. Military hospitals and clinics are a good example of nationalized health care for this is fully funded with tax dollars.

IF healthcare were nationalized there would be no need for the insurance industry and medical care would be the best in the world. The business world would breathe a huge sigh of relief and so would every living human being in the USA. Veterans would have all of their needs met once and for all no matter what.

Americans would be the most productive work force in the world which would attract industry from around the world.

In comparison pharmaceuticals would be dirt cheap and the cost of living should go down across the board.

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Keith Richards 4 months ago

I usually find this guys far right rants crazy but it is hard to argue the facts.

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