Weekend Martini: Obamacare wreckage in two andecdotes

Obamacare is disastrous, but the wreckage has only begun piling up.

We’re already seeing the very early ramifications – far and away more important than a dysfunctional website are runaway costs of individual health plans and plan cancellations. Recent epiphanies by two friends are good cases-in-point; and though anecdote is a poor substitute for comprehensive evidence, that’s never stopped politicians.

In one case, a high school friend found out yesterday that on the Obamacare exchange, the cheapest plans for him and his family range from $509.60 per month to $643.44 per month with an average deductible of $9,222. Those are the “Bronze” plans. The “Platinum” Plans top out at $856.64 with an average deductible of $1,500.

He posted the screenshot to Facebook, clearly frustrated that insuring his family will cost him the same amount as a home mortgage.1441232_486200308161704_2071462871_n (1)

The good news is he could actually get through the website to receive the bad news.

On the other side of the demographic divide is a couple I know in their ’60s in great health. They own a small business in Onalaska, employing fewer than 20 people. They also need to buy their plan on the individual health insurance market. The wife, let’s call her “Susan,” was visibly shellshocked one day when she arrived at the business. Her husband, “Dave,” wasn’t far behind.

Knowing I’ve been predicting Obamacare will be a disaster since I was a student studying HR, I was one of the first people Dave told: they’d received a renewal letter; their monthly premium would be going up.

From $730 a month to $2350 a month.

Plan cancellations and sky-high individual insurance rates are only the first shoes to drop. Next year and beyond we’ll start seeing employers drop insurance for their employees on a massive scale.

Employers usually sponsor a majority if not most of their employees’ health insurance. But once they’re dumped off their employers’ plans, they’ll be “on their own,” the phrase Mr. Obama likes to disingenuously assign to Republican economic ideas.

Those people will have to buy individual coverage, much like my younger friend above. Most likely they won’t be able to afford it, so they’ll have no other choice but to do without health insurance. That defeats the purpose of the law.

Older people will have a choice to make as well. When they get a 300 percent price hike or get dropped from their employer plan, they will either have to enter Medicare, eat the higher prices, or go without coverage.

If they enter Medicare en masse, this will likely happen: The program will come under such strain that the amount the program pays doctors will decline even further. Yes, Medicare always short-changes doctors and hospitals, often to the tune of 60 cents on the dollar, a habit that would get average people into a lot of trouble. Docs though can decline to accept patients on Medicare.

Which effectively leaves, with time, all those new Medicare enrollees high and dry with no hospital that’ll see them.

If they eat the higher prices, their budgets will have to change. In the case of my friends, they own a business in a very low-profit margin industry. They will very likely have to cut staff, put off raises and hire new people at lower rates to save money, and forget any dreams of expanding. That happening on a large scale is a recipe for economic paralysis.

And if they decide they have to go without, we’re right back to 1680. Maybe they can become beggars.

The wreckage spills over – in fact, it might even be worse by comparison – into the economy as a whole. Obamacare rules and regulations unwisely set at 50 the number of employees at which the costly employer mandates kick in. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that businesses that can cut back to that number or less will do so. Obamacare incentivizes downsizing.

The law also puts at 30 the magical number of weekly hours worked for an employee to be “entitled” to coverage from their employer. Employees who are full-time now are already seeing their hours cut back to below 30 as employers, even some of the newspapers that supported Obamacare, dodge the massive new cost of providing coverage. Obamacare takes us to a part-time workforce.

But there is good news. As employers dump employees onto Obamacare, they’ll save truckloads of money; they’ll pocket the approximately $2,000 difference between covering an employee and paying the fine for not covering them. No wonder stocks are going up. Obamacare could be a windfall for the largest corporations.

But corporate employees and small business owners will be screwed. Obamacare screws the average American.

Without a massive overhaul, a scenario in which Obamacare doesn’t wreak mass havoc and result in a net hardship for middle America takes either a hell of an imagination or a very unhealthy dose of self-delusion.

It’s time to repeal the law.

It’s also time for Republicans to put forward and publicize a plan of their own that empowers average Americans with choice, opportunity, and truly free market-based healthcare.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.