It seems that no one in the White House has realized what's been going on over the last three years. How else to explain that 55 separate companies worked on healthcare.gov? It certainly has not turned out to be as easy to buy a health plan as ordering a plane ticket on Kayak or buying a book on Amazon, as the president described it. No private company would have launched this scheme in this beta-minus stage of development.
All of this is compounded, of course, by the president's empty mantra that if you like your health insurance and your doctor, you can keep them. Since Obamacare requires insurers to cover a long list of treatments and bars them from charging extra when someone is already sick, a lot of healthy people with cheap bare-bones policies have received letters telling them they must switch or have their premiums raised. No wonder they are furious.
What is worse is that, as a headline from NBC put it, the "Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance." They knew that half to three-quarters of the 14 million-plus "consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a cancellation letter or the equivalent over the next year."
In the name of political control and equity among plans, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote in regulations so restrictive that few existing plans could qualify for the safe harbor the president vowed consumers would be able to find; Obamacare required benefits and cost-sharing to be applied to most policies even if they aren't sold on an exchange. The result is millions of consumers who have policies that are inadequate under the Sebelius/Obama vision. It doesn't mean that they will become uninsured, but they will lose their current coverage and may have to pay more than they voluntarily pay today.
Another huge group of losers are those people who were dropped from full-time to part-time employment in order for employers to avoid the Obamacare mandate. The ACA requires businesses with at least 50 employees to provide health insurance coverage to those who work 30 hours or more per week or face a penalty of $2,000 per employee after the first 30 workers. This is an incentive to transform a 40-hour workweek into a 29-hour week; by evading the mandate and the penalty, employers can clearly boost profits. Duh! Three major American labor unions have said this will "destroy the foundation of the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class," Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal. He went on to explain: If you have three employees working 40 hours per week, they will produce 120 labor hours, whereas five employees working 24 hours will also produce 120 labor hours. With no obligation to offer the five part-time employees health insurance, employers have a clear incentive to prefer them.
Witness the evidence Puzder presented. To determine whether an employee was working 30 or more hours per week, Obamacare provided a "look-back" period of three to 12 months. Surprise, surprise: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2013, the economy added a stunning 833,000 part-time jobs and lost 97,000 full-time jobs. This was only nominally reversed when the administration announced July 2 that the employer mandate would be delayed for a year. In the next two months, the economy lost 20,000 part-time jobs and gained 132,000 full-time jobs.
This does not require more than a room temperature IQ to understand. Obamacare is the culprit, forcing hard-working Americans to get the short end of the stick at a time when almost 20 percent of the workforce was already at a historic part-time level, with average compensation somewhere between poverty and near-poverty.
We come back to a central question of health care – costs – next week.