Now We Know Obamacare Ain't a Free Lunch

The new health law is making life harder on already insured Americans who are just trying to get by.

By SHARE
EC_131104_summers.jpg

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Rarely is it possible to get something for nothing, and economic tradeoffs have always been a part of life. In many ways, governing is the art of setting priorities within the boundaries of those tradeoffs — deciding which programs are worth taking dollars away from taxpayers to fund, for example, or which reforms are worth reducing the benefits some Americans rely on to make.

So yes, it was perfectly expected that an effort to provide health insurance to a big chunk of Americans who could not access it before would have some negative effects on those who already have coverage. If insurance companies were going to be forced to offer below-cost policies to people who are already sick, they were going make that money up somehow.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

In itself, that doesn't make the Affordable Care Act a bad policy. Obamacare proponents would have you believe their beloved law is worth the tradeoffs involved, and no doubt there are some who are willing and able to pay higher prices for insurance if it means more people will be covered.

But many others don't have room in their budgets to suddenly have to spend hundreds of dollars more on health insurance every month. For these individuals, universal coverage is a noble goal, but not if it means making life harder on already insured Americans who are just trying to get by.

"I pay my taxes," said David Prestin, a Michigan resident who is losing his policy. "You try to be personally accountable and play by the rules, but the more you play by the rules, the more you get beat up on." He's not alone.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Jennifer Harris is a California resident also getting booted off her plan. "It doesn't seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else," she said. "This increase is simply not affordable." In other words, when actually confronted with the tradeoffs involved, Americans like Prestin and Harris are coming to the conclusion that Obamacare's benefits just aren't worth its costs.

Unfortunately for us, the law's proponents never got around to mentioning the downsides of Obamacare while they were selling it to the public. Now they're saying it should have been obvious there would be losers as well as winners. Unfortunately for them, a lot fewer people are finding themselves in the second bucket than the first.

  • Read Nina Rees: We Need Better Legislation to Keep Sexual Predators Out of Schools
  • Read Charles Wheelan: Why the U.S. Needs a Third Political Party
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad