Opinion

The ‘unanticipated’ consequences of Obamacare

Corie Whalen Stephens Spokesperson, Generation Opportunity

Stop the presses! Obamacare is going to be trillions more expensive than originally projected and will destroy millions of jobs? That’s what last week’s report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) declares, coupled with some almost humorous commentary about how these results were “unanticipated.” As the CBO states in making projections through 2017, “Reduced incentives to work attributable to the Affordable Care Act – with most of the impact arising from new subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges – will have a larger negative effect on (labor force) participation toward the end of that period.”

This was far from the only observation the CBO made about Obamacare – but it’s the most important one philosophically. It begs the question, what kind of country are we leaving to American youth? One that encourages hard work as a prerequisite for fulfilling boundless potential? Or a nation where we’re artificially “free” from obligation through regulations that discourage wealth creation and social mobility? Unfortunately, Obamacare is promoting the latter. Even worse, there are people defending the outcome.

The New York Times’ editorial board didn’t try to spin the truth of how severely Obamacare is impacting job growth, but rather chose to celebrate the alleged positivity of elevating government handouts over employment. In their own words, “The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law.”

Apparently, liberation doesn’t mean freedom from a government that limits one’s ability to enhance their well-being. Instead, “liberation” is a luxury afforded to some, while others subsidize the programs they depend on. This is not an outlook steeped in long-term sustainability. It’s actually a disturbing indication of the fact that there are Americans willing to trade the incentives that encourage social mobility for government-induced mediocrity that has the net effect of dragging the entire economy down.

Physician and scholar Scott Gottlieb put it well when he said, “The old employer sponsored system forced people to stay in jobs they didn’t like because they needed the health insurance coverage. The new Obamacare system will force people to stay out of jobs they do want because they need to maximize their subsidies. And this is social progress?” A crucial inquiry indeed.

Most advocates of a free-market health care system recognize the problems with insurance being tied to employment and care being tied to insurance. Portable, affordable plans tailored to meet the needs of consumers are what’s desperately required, but they have been banned by Obamacare. Moreover, health insurance should specifically be geared toward coverage for catastrophic events – not utilized to pay for basic care.

This is the route young people who have chosen to opt out of Obamacare are taking. Whether they sign up for a short-term plan or purchase any one of the many of private options still available, it’s wholly possible to reject Obamacare and act responsibly. Ultimately, the better understanding consumers have of actual health care costs, the more competition will bring prices down. These concepts are simple – but they seem to evade politicians who refuse to acknowledge the value of policies that shift power out of their orbit and back toward the people.

Indicative of that problem, Obamacare has exasperated what was wrong with the health care market prior to its enactment. Instead of creating more choice, it has restricted doctor options. Instead of making health care more affordable, it has disproportionately burdened the middle class. Instead of increasing options, it has banned millions of plans. Instead of “freeing” young people, it has pushed several trillion dollars more in government debt on our shoulders. Instead of reining in corporate excess, it has guaranteed insurance companies bailouts.

Nothing about Obamacare represents a “step in the right direction,” unless one believes the government is a self-sustaining entity upon which everyone can depend without contributing. That outlook has collapsed many an economy and been the catalyst for vast social unrest. We’ve already seen problems of this nature in countries like Spain and Greece recently.

The United States must avoid going down the same path and ultimately handing young Americans a country where instead of pursuing our dreams, we’re forced to pay for the mistakes of those who thought mortgaging our futures for their personal gain was acceptable. In these trying times, it would be wise to heed the words of French philosopher Frédéric Bastiat:  “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.”