Opinion
A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. REUTERS/Mike Segar A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. REUTERS/Mike Segar  

GOP must present an alternative to Obamacare to stave off single-payer talk

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Patrick Hedger
Policy Director, American Encore
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      Patrick Hedger

      Patrick Hedger is the Policy Director of American Encore, a group dedicated to defending freedom, promoting free markets, working to expand economic opportunity, and making the case for the American ideals of liberty and democracy, both at home and abroad. Follow American Encore on Twitter @AmericanEncore and learn more at www.AmericanEncore.org. Patrick is a graduate of George Mason University.

There may be a good reason why congressional Democrats passed Obamacare to find out what was in it: plausible deniability. That’s a luxury I’m sure the president wishes he had, given the recent revelation that if Americans like their health insurance, the government doesn’t care.

While congressional Democrats up for re-election in 2014 are bracing for a bumpy road ahead, the glaring failures of Obamacare present a troubling opportunity for the progressive left to sell single-payer health care to the American public.

The Affordable Care Act was incorrectly sold as a “market-based” approach to insurance coverage, and many low-information voters still believe this to be true. In reality, Obamacare is more like the saccharin of the free market — it looks and tastes like the real thing while its manufactured framework slowly rots the free market from the inside out.

Nonetheless, Democrats will pounce at the opportunity to use the demise of the health care exchanges to push for an even more centralized system of coverage. In the 2016 distance, one can almost already hear presidential candidate Hillary Clinton behind the podium, proclaiming, “We tried the market-based approach, and it failed…”

Prominent Democrats, such as Harry Reid and Kathleen Sebelius, have been quite frank about their support for a single-payer system. To many on the progressive left, Obamacare was actually a compromise.

While nobody is denying that the American health care system had flaws, the fact remains that 85 percent of people had access to affordable health care prior to Obamacare. Many of the other 15 percent listed unemployment as the main reason they were uninsured, a more extensive economic problem that has only been exacerbated by the new law. Thus less than 5 percent of Americans actually listed insurance costs as their reason for being uninsured.

Since the historic government health care overhaul, more people are now uninsured, due to private insurance cancellation notices and a defunct website. No provision of the law was properly suited to make health care or health insurance more affordable in the long run. In fact, many of the law’s key provisions are entirely antagonistic to the goal of affordability.

The medical device tax makes health care services more expensive. Mandates for maternity, vision, and other once-optional services drive premiums up. Price controls to subsidize the cost of premiums for the elderly significantly raise costs for young Americans already strapped with student loan debt. Even the vaunted subsidies only incentivize insurance companies to keep prices high.

Even if the website gets fixed, a majority of Americans who have been booted from their current plans will turn to the exchanges only to find premiums higher by at least double- if not triple-digit percentages.

This is no surprise to either party. For three years, economists and industry analysts have stated with certainty and conviction that this law will fail. So now what?