Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Unintended Consequences

Much is being made at some conservative opinion outlets about the fact that the insurance exchanges which were supposed to be ready by today seem to be in a mess. I guess that's indicative of something, but I don't think it's really what people should be focusing on. There are at least two things about Obamacare which are far more insidious and damaging to the country than difficulties with the roll out.

The first is that Obamacare represents a takeover by government of a vast swath of American life. Americans are becoming increasingly beholden to the leviathan state and increasingly less free as a result. Government is like a drug that saps initiative and creates dependency. The more it obtrudes upon our lives the more addicted to it we become. Obamacare will be like crack cocaine, reducing large segments of the population to compliant, complacent vassals.

Second, in order to insure about 17 million uninsured Americans, Obamacare is causing enormous economic damage throughout the economy. National Review's Andrew Johnson lists 100 examples of how Obamacare is directly responsible for lost jobs, reduced hours, and rising costs. Here are his first ten:

1. IBM: Earlier this month, the computer giant, once famed for its paternalism, announced it would remove 110,000 of its Medicare-eligible retirees from the company’s health insurance and give them subsidies to purchase coverage through the Obamacare exchanges. Retirees fear that they will not get the level of coverage they are used to, and that the options will be bewildering.

2. Delta Air Lines: In a letter to employees, Delta Air Lines revealed that the company’s health-care costs will rise about $100 million next year alone, in large part because of Obamacare. The airline said that in addition to several other changes, it would have to drop its specially crafted insurance plans for pilots because the “Cadillac tax” on luxurious health plans has made them too expensive.

3. UPS: Fifteen thousand employees’ spouses will no longer be able to use UPS’s health-care plan because they have access to coverage elsewhere. The “costs associated with the Affordable Care Act have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost,” the delivery giant said in a company memo. The move is expected to save the company $60 million next year.

4. Caterpillar Inc.: In the law’s first year, the machinery manufacturer estimated before its passage, Obamacare would add more than $100 million in health-care costs. “We can ill afford cost increases that place us at a disadvantage versus our global competitors,” a Caterpillar executive wrote lawmakers, saying that the law would not meet the goal of providing good, inexpensive health care for all Americans.

5. SeaWorld: SeaWorld used to let part-time employees work up to 32 hours per week, but the company is dropping the limit to 28 hours to keep them under the 30-hour threshold at which it would be required to provide health insurance under Obamacare. More than 80 percent of the company’s thousands of employees are part-time and/or seasonal.

Medical-Device Tax

6. Stryker Corp.: Stryker Corp., a Michigan medical-device manufacturer, laid off about 1,000 employees earlier this year due to the Affordable Care Act’s 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices. The company estimated that the tax would cost it approximately $100 million next year. “Stryker remains significantly concerned with the upcoming medical device excise tax and its negative impact on jobs and innovation and will continue to work with Congress to try to repeal the tax,” said the company’s CEO.

7. Welch Allyn: The manufacturer announced that it will have to cut approximately 10 percent of its 2,750 employees, 275 in all, because of the medical-device tax. The company also plans to consolidate manufacturing centers, moving some operations from Beaverton, Ore., to its facility in Skaneateles Falls, N.Y.

8. Smith & Nephew: The British company informed nearly 100 employees at its Massachusetts and Tennessee facilities that they would be laid off “in order to absorb [the] cost burden” of the tax on medical devices.

Hospitals, Nonprofits

9. Cleveland Clinic, Ohio: One of the world’s best-known hospitals announced in September that it would slash jobs and up to 6 percent of its annual $6 billion budget in anticipation of costs associated with Obamacare’s implementation. A spokeswoman for the clinic announced that approximately $330 million would be cut, but she did not say how many of the 44,000 employees the clinic would let go. The Cleveland Clinic is Cleveland’s largest employer and the second-largest employer in Ohio.

10. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina: Last November, the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, announced that 950 full-time-equivalent positions would have to be eliminated in order to make up costs from the health-care law.
There are 90 other examples at the link. Everything from labor unions, to mom and pop businesses to universities are laying off, cutting hours, and not hiring because of the costs imposed by this law. The fact that the start up is chaotic is bad, but compared to the human cost that this law is exacting, it's really not significant.

That's why the Republicans have sought first to defund it, then to delay it, and now to at least make Congressmen and their staffs live under the law that they've imposed upon the rest of us. Nevertheless, neither the Democrats in the Senate nor the President will budge. Indeed they won't even negotiate. Rather than undo some of the worst elements of this law they've chosen instead to shut down the government and then blame the Republicans for whatever bad consequences come of the shutdown.

It's no wonder people despise both politics and big government.