Beware the ObamaCare Industrial Complex

The welcome death of GrahamCare does not mean that Congress will not address ObamaCare before the end of the year. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is working with Washington Senator and HELP Ranking member Patty Murray on an ObamaCare replacement plan.

While no one is sure what will be in the Alexander-Murray plan, we may have gotten some hints from a plan released by Ohio Republican Governor John “opposition to ObamaCare is un-Christian” Kasich and Colorado Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. The Kasich-Hickenlooper plan is expected to mirror the Alexander-Murray plan in several ways.

The Kasich-Hickenlooper plan would:

  • Continue subsidies to insurance companies

  • Create a “temporary” program (because temporary programs always stay temporary) to further subsidize insurance companies

  • Exempt insurers from Obamacare taxes to encourage them to cover under-insured counties

  • Let people in counties without health insurance plans buy into the Federal Employee Health plan thus taking a step toward a public option

  • Keep the individual mandate and “crack down” on people who do not comply

  • Keep outreach funding which has recently been reduced by the Trump administration

  • Strengthen risk-sharing protection for insurers

  • Like McConell and Ryan Care it would give states more flexibility to design their own mini-ObamaCare plans

  • Encourage more creative ways to pay for health care like “value-based health care purchasing.” Like the name suggests, “value-based purchasing” means health care providers get reimbursed for providing “value,” that is, for improving health. While this may sound appealing, it is merely the old managed care model dresses up in new clothes. It could lead to rationing on the theory that the value of providing certain types of care to certain types of people does not justify the costs.

Read more here.

While both of these provisos are improvements over the current system, most of them seem more likely to help big insurance companies than consumers. This reflects the consensus on Capitol Hill that with the death of “repeal and replace” Congress needs to protect the insurance industry.

The Republican majority is actually prepared to extend subsidies they sued President Obama over! Their argument back then was that Obama lacked Congressional Authorization to make those payments. I guess passing legislation authorizing the payments is one way to ensure the President does not make them illegally.

So why is a Congress that campaigned against Obamacare subsidies embracing the subsidies?

Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation thinks it is because the rise of the ObamaCare-industrial complex:

So why is everyone suddenly rallying for an Obamacare bailout? The answer is simple. The new health law has given rise to an Obamacare-industrial complex. The health system is now like a junkie hooked on federal payments.

This addiction explains why the insurance companies are lobbying furiously for these funds alongside their newfound friends at left-wing interest groups such as the Center for American Progress. The irony of this alliance is that these left-wing "allies" hate insurance companies and want to abolish them. The insurance lobby is selling rope to its hangman.

Hospital groups, the American Medical Association and the AARP are joined by the Catholic Bishops, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. (If you are donating money to any of these groups, you might want to think again.) This health care-industrial complex has only one solution to every Obamacare crackup: more regulation and more tax dollars.

Proponents argue that there was an innocent mistake in the language of the Affordable Care Act (imagine that -- maybe next time they will read the bill before they vote on it) and that these bailout funds were intended to be automatic entitlement payments that would not have to be appropriated annually by Congress.

If they prevail, the insurance companies will get fatter and fatter checks from the government every year, no matter how much costs escalate. Financial accountability will be thrown out the window, and Obamacare will become an appendage of Medicaid, with exploding costs and a blank check from taxpayers.

This year the best estimate is that Obamacare will need at least $10 billion more to keep the system solvent. The death spiral in the program is intensifying with every passing month, so it's highly predictable these costs will reach $20 billion next year and more in the years that follow.

You can call this a bailout or just a swindle of taxpayers who were fed a litany of lies about Obamacare's virtues from the very start. Either way, taxpayers get shafted (again) and the Obamacare-industrial complex gets fat and happy. If Republicans are partners to this fiscal crime, then they are as culpable as the Democrats who passed this turkey in the first place and they certainly don't deserve to be the governing party.

Read the whole piece here.

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