No, It's Not a Messaging Problem

The real trouble with ObamaCare

The White House says it has a "messaging" problem when it comes to health care reform—as in a "you're-not-buying-our-message" problem. And this week's news, to say the least, was no help.

You'll remember that one of the most common and potent rationales for passing reform was the claim that insurance companies routinely deny coverage to innocent Americans with pre-existing conditions.

ObamaCare features a $5 billion program designed to stem this profit-ridden epidemic. And to ensure vibrant participation—by both those legitimately in need and those who couldn't quite grasp the theory behind "insurance"—65 percent of premiums are subsidized by taxpayers.

But as The Wall Street Journal reported this week, even with generous inducements, since July only 8,000 people—rather than the White House's projected 375,000—have signed up for a national program that is theoretically going to add another 400,000 citizens in each upcoming year.

Perhaps advocates confused their own dismal view of American ingenuity with reality. But I'm not worried. If this administration excels at anything, it's giving away stuff. No messaging problem there. And the Department of Health and Human Services has promised to cut premiums by 20 percent more and enhance benefits to encourage enrollment.

In other words, we have another $5 billion relentlessly searching for a problem.

You'll also remember that President Barack Obama promised ObamaCare was going to immediately alleviate some of the pain of rising premiums for businesses. This week, we learned that 111 waivers had already been granted by the administration to those threatening to drop coverage for tens of thousands of employees they can no longer afford to cover. Others across the country, such as AARP (sweet schadenfreude) and Boeing, were forced to raise their premiums, in part because of ObamaCare.

Sixteen of the waivers, you won't be surprised to learn, were granted to union-based plans, which confirms that the sleaze-addled bill became a sleaze-addled law. Why, after all, should a few chosen companies be granted dispensation while others subsidize them?

The administration argues that these waivers are necessary only until reform takes effect in 2014, at which time workers will enjoy a wide range of approved options. Now, clearly anyone gullible enough to believe that a giant invasive regulatory scheme is going to spur competition and choice is already working for the administration. But even if we were to suspend our disbelief, how does any of that comport with the president's claim that we can all keep our insurance if we like it? (Answer: not well.)

Let's add this news to other iffy rationales for passage. Once we remove illegal immigrants, those who can afford insurance but choose not to buy, and those eligible for other government programs, that amazing 30 million to 50 million of "uninsured" becomes a more manageable 9 million.

Remember, despite the incessant complaints about our flawed system, once experts such as Dr. Scott Atlas at Stanford's Hoover Institution removed inputs that had nothing to do with care, the U.S. led the world in life expectancy and in almost every survival rate.

So even before we touch on cost, the long-term effects, rationing, the way the bill was passed, or the constitutionality of reform, the very justifications for passage suffer from a serious "messaging" problem.

Then again, when your messaging problem is really just an honesty problem, it's not going to get any easier.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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