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Krieg Barrie

Hard to swallow

Healthcare | Americans will soon learn how costly Obamacare is going to be

Issue: "No pray zone?," July 13, 2013

The evidence that Obamacare is a disastrous shipwreck—already on the rocks—is everywhere.

There are the headlines about actual behavior. For the Obamacare formula to work, for example, 4 or 5 million young adults need to sign on. These are folks who have been going without insurance because their health was good enough that they could take such risks. Because they were at that robust and healthy stage of life, they were consuming less than $1,000 annually each in health services of various kinds—which they were paying for “out of pocket.” It has been, for such people, a great bargain.

Obamacare, though, dictates that such a bargain will no longer be permitted. This younger set, says the Los Angeles Times, is “exactly the type of person insurance plans, states, and the federal government are counting on to make health reform work.” Everybody has to participate if the new projections are going to work, which means this segment of the population will suddenly—this fall—face annual premiums of $5,000 to $6,000. They’re obviously not happy. Participation under Obamacare is not optional, however, but mandatory, with unspecified penalties waiting for those who don’t sign on.

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So was it a surprise to anyone a few days ago when we learned that these millions of 20-somethings are balking at the idea of chipping in an extra $4,000 or $5,000 (annually) just to do their civic duty? Until now, it’s all been a grand theory. But Obamacare is supposedly in the process of kicking in—and for some reason all those healthy younguns just aren’t showing up with their checkbooks. It’s a radical problem, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about it.

Front-page headlines the very next day announce that the health insurance “exchanges” mandated by Obamacare are “falling behind schedule.” These outlets, where small businesses and consumers are supposed to be able to buy the policies they will need to comply with Obamacare, were scheduled to be up and ready to go by Oct. 1. But the deadline is disappearing fast, reporters say. And so is the quality and variety of services those exchanges were intended to offer.

So keep watching those headlines. We’re talking about the real world now—not the dreamworld of Washington, D.C. And don’t count on those headlines spelling out many happy surprises.

All apart from what’s actually happening on the healthcare front, though, a little commonsense analysis will help you arrive at very much the same conclusions. Obamacare, from the very beginning, never made practical sense. We should have known. Try this, for example.

Before Congress finally gave President Obama its single-vote approval of his cockeyed scheme, he had told us all incessantly how much he wanted to help “the 40 million Americans who have no health coverage.” Now, however, for all that ballyhoo, the very highest estimates are that Obamacare might possibly enroll some 7 million people who did not have coverage before. That’s about one-sixth what the president had implied—and even it is an optimistic guess.

But it gets worse. Those 7 million people—and seriously, we should be concerned for them—come to their new status with a typically worrisome background. Because they had no insurance in recent years, many, many of them come with a backlog of uncared for medical issues. Their medical bills per person, both immediately and for the years ahead, will make a stack several times as high as that of a typical person who has enjoyed coverage.

Bottom line is that we’re preparing to bankrupt our society—while getting hardly a thing back to show for it. The federal government has enormous resources at its disposal to make it seem otherwise. Washington will do everything it can to pretend Obamacare is a success, and for a short interim you may trust what is only an illusion. But don’t believe it. Be watching two powerful bodies of evidence: The cumulative headlines will keep telling you about delayed deadlines, unmet goals, and unfulfilled promises. And basic math will keep reminding you, all along the way, that there’s no such thing as a free aspirin or Band-Aid.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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