The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 10, 2013

Health coverage experiment is on

The Clinton Herald

---- — Now that President Barack Obama has placed the Affordable Care Act on the plates of every single American, we’ll find out how they like it.

Monday marked the seventh day into the grand social experiment popularly known as Obamacare, President Barack Obama’s proudest and most important legislative achievement whose goal is to ensure that virtually all 300 million-plus Americans have some form of health insurance.

Whether it will be the grand success its supporters predict, the stunning failure expected by its critics or fall somewhere in between won’t be known for weeks, perhaps longer. In the meantime, all Americans will be finding out for themselves what this incredibly ambitious insurance program holds for them as individuals.

Obama has repeatedly promised over the past several years that the primary benefit of Obamacare will be providing health insurance coverage to those who are not, for a variety of reasons, currently covered. He’s suggested that costs will not be a problem because government-provided subsidies will help underwrite insurance costs for lower-income families.

For most people who already have insurance coverage and see no reason to make any alterations in their plan, Obama has suggested, implementation will be a non-event.

If you like your doctor, he has promised, you can keep him. If you like your insurance coverage, Obama pledged, you can keep it. In other words, don’t worry, be happy, because your life will not be affected.

It’s our fondest hope that Obama’s personal pledge becomes reality. But judging from first impressions, it appears there will be winners and losers as this plays out, and the consequences could be dramatic.

It’s no secret that the economy is in a very slow recovery after a brutal recession and that one of the keys to expanding the economy is growth that encourages businesses to expand and hire. If this country is going to achieve the kind of economic recoveries marked by the Reagan and Clinton years, it needs more people working and paying taxes and fewer people collecting welfare and unemployment benefits.

Unfortunately, facing the increased costs of Obamacare, businesses confront a negative incentive to cut part-time employees’ hours to less than 30 per week and keep total employment to less than 50 people to avoid Obamacare’s employer insurance mandate.

Because of implementation problems, Obama delayed the employer mandate for one year, until Jan. 1, 2015. But it is still hanging over the heads of employers and employees.

As for the individual mandate, the government directive requiring individuals and families to purchase health insurance, that’s a different story altogether. Obama has rejected Republican requests to delay the individual mandate just as he did the employer mandate, and the rush of public interest in the health insurance exchanges that opened for business this week demonstrates the level of interest in seeing what this new marketplace has to offer.

Under Obamacare, Medicaid rolls will be dramatically expanded for lower-income individuals. Middle- and higher-income earners can choose from a variety of insurance options available on the exchanges, and their costs will be determined by their individual circumstances. People will either like it, not like it or hate it, depending on the size of their bill.

Other than filing income taxes each year, it’s hard to imagine a government program that will affect more people in a more personal way than Obamacare. Obama and the Democrats are betting that people will love it and reward them with their votes for years to come. Republicans see it as a looming disaster.

They can’t both be right, and we’ll have a better idea who is in due time.