Obamacare dangerous, costly, uncertain …but

Lonnie Adamson General Manager/Editor

September 25, 2013

Obamacare is a dangerous, costly, uncertain piece of law.

But I am having difficulty understanding why it is not also our economic salvation.

Before Obamacare, our system of funding healthcare failed in the sense that 30 million people are going without health insurance, the only realistic way for middle class and poor people to pay for helthcare. I wager to say that no one – not one family – in Pickens and Anderson County can afford to pay for significant healthcare needs without it.

That leaves thousands of families in a fallback position if a family member faces serious illness. If they are to get treatment, they go to a hospital where they – by virtue of President Ronald Reagan’s law – can not be denied treatment.

Those people then pay nothing or they pay $10 per month for the rest of their lives. Either way hospitals pay heavily and write off millions to bad debt. Hospitals can’t afford to do that endlessly, so they must pass the cost along to the rest of us who have insurance.

The bottom line to that story is that the rest of us are paying for the healthcare of people who can’t afford or otherwise can’t get insurance. That is called cost shifting in the hospital administration trade.

So why does it not make sense to find a way for everyone to pay for their own healthcare. In some cases, this means forcing some to have insurance, so they will have a way of funding an illness they can’t conceive will afflict them. Forcing them to have insurance however keeps the rest of us from footing the bill.

But forcing some to have insurance requires funding that for them. Here is a point where we can legitimately ask the question, “Why should I pay someone else bills?”

The answer, remember, is that, if you already pay for your own insurance, you already are paying the healthcare bill of others who can’t. Obamacare brings more payers into the mix. It sends these same people who are unable to pay to doctors offices for treatment rather than more expensive hospital emergency rooms.

That seems to mean that more people – not all but more — are paying for healthcare instead of passing it on to the rest of us.

I’ve asked several times why this is not an improvement over the previous system of allowing more people not to pay, but I have never heard a response. I’m beginning to think that people believe maybe I’m too stupid to understand the answer, so they don’t bother discussing it with me.

But I asked it one more time on the Facebook page of our Congressman Jeff Duncan over the weekend as we approach a government shutdown vote in lieu of funding Obamacare. I asked in a comment of a group of postings about de-funding Obamacare.

I like the Congressman. I think he has some important things to say. I think he is particularly knowledgeable on energy issues. He certainly studies issues affecting all of us and works hard. We don’t agree on everything, but I listen to his counsel.

My Facebook comment on the Congressman’s Facebook Page disappeared from the postings about Obamacare and the impending discussion of government shutdown in favor of Obamacare.

As I’ve said, “Obamacare is a dangerous, costly, uncertain piece of law.” It is dangerous because of uncertainties about how it will affect the insurance market. We see uncertainties about whether Obamacare will drive many industries to reduce full time help to avoid paying for insurance for them. But those are uncertainties. How will insurance companies respond to meet the needs of this new system of insuring people? How will the employment market and workers respond to the change in full-time employment if the change continues. The market may supply new answers.

What we know is that the market has supplied no answers to the problem for 30 years of cost shifting of which I am aware and if we do nothing, we will bankrupt ourselves.

I have no doubt the law will need to change along the way. I’d like to hear some ideas about how the forward progress of Obamacare can be improved.

But mostly I’d still like some convincing why it is not better than what we had before – or government shutdown.