In his brilliant exposition of why sweeping policy changes often have unintended consequences, the late sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote that leaders get things wrong when their "paramount concern with the foreseen immediate consequences excludes the consideration of further or other consequences" of their proposals. This leads policy makers to assert things that are false, wishing them to be true.
Which brings us to President Obama's many claims about his health-care reform. Take his oft-expressed statement that if you like the coverage you have, you can keep it. That sounds good—but perverse incentives in his new law will cause most Americans to lose their existing insurance.
This was brought home to me when I asked the CEO of a major restaurant chain about health reform's effect on his company, which now spends $25 million a year on employee health insurance. That will jump to at least $90 million a year once the new law is phased in. It will be cheaper, he told me, for the company to dump its coverage and pay a fine—$2,000 for each full-time worker—and make sure that no part-time employee accidentally worked 31 hours and thereby incurred the fine.
This reality is settling in at businesses across America. A Midwestern contractor told me he pays $588,000 for health insurance for 70 employees, contributing up to $8,400 a year for a family's coverage. If he stops providing health insurance, he'll pay $2,000 per employee in fines, and the first 40 employees are exempt from fines altogether.
It's also dawning on employees that they will lose their coverage. Some will blame management; many more will blame those who wrote this terrible legislation.
Either Mr. Obama was stunningly blind to these perverse effects when he promised people could keep their coverage, or he felt that admitting his plan would collapse employer-provided health coverage could keep it from passing. Either way—self-deception or deliberate deceit—health reform is going to turn out far differently than was promised. And because more workers will be dumped into subsidized coverage, taxpayers are likely to pay much more than the $1 trillion-plus price tag claimed by ObamaCare advocates for its first 10 years.
Today, the cost of providing insurance is about $8500 per employee. And, the employee does not pay any income tax on the value of that insurance. Should AT&T drop their group coverage, and, should they decide to use the savings to increase salaries, each employee would receive approximately $6400 in increased wages. However, unlike insurance benefits, increased wages are taxable. When the Bush tax cuts expire at the beginning of 2011, the lowest income tax bracket will rise from 10% to 15%. So, of the $6400 pay raise you get, approximately $950 will have to be used to pay federal income taxes. This will leave you with approximately $5450 in your pocket to buy insurance. Not only will you not be able to afford the type of coverage AT&T provided without digging further into your own pocket, but, the CBO estimates that by 2016, as a result of Obamacare, the yearly premium for health insurance will rise to approximately $15,000 for a family of four.
Of course, no employer would use the entire “savings” on employee wage increases. So, the picture becomes even bleaker. Once again, this administration is encouraging the wrong behavior. And, as in the past, it’s middle class America that will have to pay for it.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some major health insurance companies will no longer issue certain types of policies for children, an unintended consequence of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, state officials said Friday.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said several big insurers in his state will stop issuing new policies that cover children individually. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said a couple of local insurers in her state are doing likewise.
In Florida, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna, and Golden Rule -- a subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare -- notified the insurance commissioner that they will stop issuing individual policies for children, said Jack McDermott, a spokesman for McCarty.
The major types of coverage for children -- employer plans and government programs -- are not be affected by the disruption. But a subset of policies -- those that cover children as individuals -- may run into problems. Even so, insurers are not canceling children's coverage already issued, but refusing to write new policies.
The administration reacted sharply to the pullback. "We're disappointed that a small number of insurance companies are taking this unwarranted and unnecessary step," said Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services department.
In the period spanning the final year of George W. Bush's second term in the White House and President Obama's tenure to date, the national debt has exploded from $9.1 trillion to nearly $13.2 trillion, reaching 90 percent of the gross domestic product. On a graph, the direction of the national debt for this period is almost straight up, recalling what fighter pilots mean when they "go vertical" in a dogfight. We are accumulating a debt so massive that our children and grandchildren will still be paying it off decades hence.
There is no doubt that George Washington, our first president, Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury, and Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, would be horrified by the present financial condition of the federal government. Public debt was anathema for Washington, who in his Farewell Address admonished us to "cherish public credit," noting that "one method of preserving it, is to use it sparingly ... avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt." Washington warned that one generation could spend itself into great debt, then "not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen. ..."