Going for broke with Obamacare

Published 1:38 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016

by Michael Reagan

Everything about health insurance was confusing, stupid and horrible long before Obamacare came along.

Just hearing it was time again to choose your healthcare plan for the next calendar year made some business people I know so sick they had to see a doctor.

Not really.

We all know the ugly truth about the Affordable Care Act.

Its rules and regulations and subsidies and penalties and red tape and false promises and reinsurance programs have only made buying healthcare worse for consumers.

It’s more confusing to sign up for, costs more than Obama promised it would and it’s shredding the bottom lines of the already crippled companies that provide private health insurance.

Some say it’s all part of Obama’s grand plan to make health insurance and healthcare so expensive that private companies will get out of the business and voters will beg Washington for a mandated government program like like they have in England, Canada or Cuba.

If that’s Obama’s plan, it’s working nicely.

Earlier this month UnitedHealthcare announced it was pulling out of most of the 34 state health insurance exchanges it was participating in under the Affordable Care Act.

UnitedHealthcare is the country’s largest health insurer. It made $1.6 billion last year, so it’s not exactly going broke.

But it’s not stupid. Thanks to higher healthcare costs and the increased number of sicker people who are signing up for Obamacare, it lost close to $1 billion operating in state insurance exchanges in the last two years.

UnitedHealthcare’s CEO explained to reporters that the “smaller overall market size and shorter-term, higher-risk profile within this market segment continues to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis.”

That sounds to me like CEO speak for “the exchange business stinks to high heaven and government-run healthcare is such a mess we’re bailing out now before we go bankrupt.”

A very sharp commenter on the Wall Street Journal’s web site named James Burke translated what the CEO really meant and, as a public service, added in the missing political spin:

• “Smaller overall market size” (Obamacare will never reach promised critical growth targets)

• “Shorter-term” (It’s impossible to keep people paying premiums they don’t have to pay.)

• “Higher-risk profile”(This is not risk-based insurance, it’s social welfare and redistribution.)

• “Within this market segment continue to suggest” (nice word for this program is a failure)

• “We cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis” (Neither us, or any other insurer, will ever make money on this … here comes Single Payor.)

Mr. Burke might not agree, but the experts say UnitedHealthcare’s decision is not going to wreck Obamacare’s exchanges anytime soon because other healthcare companies are still in them and trying to make a profit.

But with UnitedHealthcare heading for the hills and other major health insurers talking about merging in order to survive, consumers, as usual, will get the shaft.

We will see fewer choices and less competition among insurance companies, especially in rural counties, where, because the federal government allows states to prevent health insurers  from competing across state lines, millions of consumers will end up with only one “choice.”

Here’s a safe prediction.

Everything to do with healthcare will continue to get worse for Americans everywhere because of government meddling in the private sector.

Then the Hillarys and Bernies of the world will say since the free market can’t provide healthcare we have to have “free” government healthcare provided by Washington.

We’ve all seen this government movie before — and, spoiler alert, it doesn’t have a happy ending.

MICHAEL REAGAN is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder of the email service reagan.com and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter.