Rick Henderson Contributing Columnist
December 10, 2013
An insidious corporate conspiracy is afoot and it has a nefarious goal — forcing you to buy health insurance policies that you wanted to purchase anyway. At least that’s what U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and other Democrats scrambling to defend Obamacare after its clunky rollout are arguing.
If instead, getting a range of coverage at prices you can afford sounds like a reasonable bargain, you’ve been duped by the rapacious profit-seekers in the insurance industry who have spent the past three years trying to undermine Obamacare. Insurers don’t want the law to work, its backers say. So insurers have eroded public support by offering consumers in the individual market “nonstandard” but affordable coverage — with full knowledge that their consumer-friendly products would have to be canceled when the law takes effect in January. Oh, the humanity.
Such paternalism — Washington knows what’s best for you — is nothing new. But this embrace of nanny-state governance may be the only way supporters of the Affordable Care Act can deflect attention from the disastrous law. Since October, we’ve been inundated with reports of failures in the online registration process at the Obamacare website; millions of people who purchased insurance on the individual market facing canceled policies and the prospect of paying thousands of dollars more each year for new ones; and dozens of physicians groups and hospitals around the country dropping out of the networks that will cover patients under the Affordable Care Act.
Even the much-ballyhooed Dec. 1 “fix” of the Healthcare.gov website was deemed a success even though only 80 percent of those visiting the site are expected to sign up for insurance without a problem. Imagine an e-commerce site claiming it was successful even though 20 percent of its customers couldn’t purchase anything.
Trashing the intelligence of the American people seems to be the best way to defend the law.
For her part, Hagan and her staff have offered a prominent megaphone for this ludicrous stance. For weeks now, the Greensboro Democrat and various staff members have started blaming insurance companies for continuing to provide “noncompliant” coverage to their customers. Hagan is up for re-election in 2014, if you didn’t know.
Hagan hosted a Nov. 12 conference call with reporters to answer questions about Obamacare’s disastrous rollout. The event went so badly even liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote a recap that made Hagan seem out of her depth. “[T]he Q&A session was so painful that the senator should qualify for trauma coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” Milbank wrote.
If the senator dug a hole, Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner jumped in and kept digging.
“In her capacity as a member of the HELP Committee, Senator Hagan was involved with that committee’s markup of the health care reform bill in the summer of 2009,” Weiner told the News & Record of Greensboro after the conference call. “Once insurance companies began disingenuously offering plans that they knew they would be canceling, it became clear that more people would be getting cancellation letters,” Weiner said.
Translation: Hagan was one of the architects of Obamacare, and she knew many consumers in the individual market would prefer policies that were less expensive than those satisfying the mandates of the law. And yet insurers kept offering them because people wanted to buy them. The nerve.
To be sure, insurance providers were not innocent bystanders as Obamacare was pieced together. The feds purchased the support of insurers by providing them subsidies and enacting regulations that will, in effect, eliminate competition and guarantee profits.
But it takes a buyer and a seller to complete a voluntary transaction. Hagan is blaming the health law’s failures on people who were willing to buy “substandard” insurance all along. To paraphrase Walt Kelly, she has met the enemy, and he is us.
Rick Henderson is managing editor of Carolina Journal.