Politics

What’s the Obamacare line today?

I’d like to toe the party line on insurance cancellations, but it keeps changing!

Old line: These are all “junk” plans! They deserved to die! People are better off without them!

Problem: There are lots of people on plans that seem reasonable that they were happy with.

New line: Aha! Yes, it’s true, “some of the people getting cancellation notices had generous coverage.“** But if they only could go on the web site they’d see they’ll wind up paying less!

Problem: No,a big chunk–maybe the whole 40% or so who won’t get any subsidies, maybe an even greater share–will be paying more.

New line: Of course they will! Who said they wouldn’t? They should pay more! They’ve unfairly “benefited from … discrimination’ because, for example, they don’t have preexisting conditions. They deserve a premium increase. Anyway, they’re disproportionately “younger, healthier, and richer.”  Screw ‘em!

Problem:  Convincing those on old “generous” plans that they are the unfair ‘beneficiaries of discrimination’ and must now pay for “the people who’ve been victimized” seems like a tough sell for Democrats!*** Plus, who are these “fortunate” beneficiaries  anyway? They’re people who have to go to the individual market because they don’t have employers, or they don’t have employers generous enough to provide insurance. Let’s make up a name for them–maybe, I dunno, “freelancers” (like, say, me). Suppose they are only 3%, as the famous liberal chart says. Why should this small group have to pay the freight for all the uninsured–a huge crappy risk pool of disorganized chance-takers that apparently terrifies insurers–and those with preexisting conditions? What about the lucky 80% who get insurance from their employers?  Shouldn’t they pay some of the freight too? Why punish the 3% because they don’t have a job or a generous employer? Is that what Democrats do?

There’s an  answer for this: The 80% who are insured at work do pay for their sicker coworkers, says Jonathan Cohn, because “employers can’t withhold benefits from employees who happen to have medical problems.  They have to insure healthy workers and unhealthy workers. That raises the cost of insurance,” which the healthy employees pay along with the unhealthy. They gave at the office!

But there’s an answer to this answer: The risk pool for a business–say The New Republic– is still undoubtedly better than the risk pool composed of Freelancers + the Uninsured + the Uninsurable (due to preexisting conditions). You’re punishing the 3% because they don’t have the good fortune of a classy job that brings with it a favorable risk pool of post-graduate joggers, or teachers, or clerks. They’ve fallen into the general sump.

Stop picking on the 3%!  It’s one thing to redistribute income from the rich to the poor. That’s what Democrats do. Fine. We can argue. But it’s another to restrict the redistribution to the pathetic 3% sliver of freelancers trapped in the individual market. Soak, not the richest, but the richest freelancers!

We’re the people who thought Obamacare would save us! Now Cohn & Ezra Klein tell us we’re the people Obamacare is out to punish.

Freelancers, always the suckers.

_____

**–Luckily, there seem to be no plans that fall between “junk” and “generous.”

***–The same goes for the ubiquitous Jonathan Gruber’s version, that the cancelled are “ genetic winners … lottery winners who have been paying an artificially low price” because they are healthy or low-risk and “now will have to pay more.”  Leveling the playing field to compensate for winners of the “genetic” lottery is a famously open-ended principle that should probably be invoked sparingly.  Adding a moralistic, guilt-trippy edge only makes it worse. …