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“Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.”     Michael Crichton

July 16, 2009

The Truth About Health Care Reform

by Doug Mataconis

Hidden within the language of the House Democrats’ Health Care Bill is a provision that would effectively destroy the market for private health insurance:

It didn’t take long to run into an “uh-oh” moment when reading the House’s “health care for all Americans” bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.

When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee.

It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of “Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage,” the “Limitation On New Enrollment” section of the bill clearly states:

“Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day” of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.

In other words, if this bill passes, you would be able to keep your current health insurance as Obama promises, but you wouldn’t be able to make any changes to it beyond adding or deleting new dependents, and the insurance company wouldn’t be able to increase premiums for specific risk groups without raising everyone’s premiums by the same amount, and they won’t be able to accept any new customers under the existing plan. Insread, they’d have to offer plans that comply with the rules set forth in the Democrats’ bill.

You can read the language for yourself, just go page 16.

Ed Morrissey is spot-on in describing what the impact of this part of the legislation would be:

[It] will have the effect of forcing millions of people into the public plan whether they want it or not. Even worse, if insurers get barred from attracting new customers — which this clause outlaws — then they will eventually see their rolls drained, thanks to the natural flow of the market as employers drop plans and skip the expense of offering medical insurance. It won’t take long at all for insurers to exit the market and leave the field for just the public plan, which will automatically get the customers of each individual insurer as they close up shop.

Does this bill outlaw private insurance? Literally, no, but in practical terms, it makes it an endangered species and creates an American single-payer system by default.

The good news ? It looks like the Blue Dog Democrats are joining Republican efforts to fight the worst parts of Obamacare:

Centrist Democrats are threatening to oppose their party’s healthcare legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accepts changes that make the bill more to their liking.

Seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have banded together to draft amendments that they’ll co-sponsor in the committee markup, which starts Thursday. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dogs’ point man on healthcare, says if those changes aren’t accepted, they’ll vote down the bill.

“We cannot support the current bill,” Ross said. “Last time I checked, it took seven Democrats to stop a bill in Energy and Commerce.” …

Blue Dogs think the bill fails to do enough to reduce healthcare costs, jeopardizes jobs with a fee on employers that don’t provide health insurance, and would base a government-run healthcare plan on a Medicare payment system that already penalizes their rural districts.

Here’s hoping that they can stop this monstrosity because, if it passes, it’s game over.

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15 Comments

  1. This attempt by the majority to undermine the foundations of our most individual responsibility is one of the most insidious, underhanded schemes I can think of. It almost sounds like a bad movie plot…
    Where has the soul of this country gone when this kind of legislation doesn’t cause a sudden, perhaps volatile reaction from the citizenry? It drives me right up the wall that this country seems complacent (and in certain cases M.S.M.) complicit in this very purposeful and methodical dismantling of the pillars that support the United States of America and everything that it has stood for throughout history.

    Comment by Hellfire — July 16, 2009 @ 6:43 am
  2. Either Congress is so ignorant of the real problem in health care that they can blithely make sure everyone suffers from it, or the thought of controlling the lives of the citizenry so excites them that they just don’t give a damn. Oddly, I can’t fathom which of those to is actually scarier.

    Comment by Quincy — July 16, 2009 @ 8:26 am
  3. The fact that this potential legislation exists makes me agree with Brad’s 7/4 post even more.

    Comment by Kathryn Rebecca — July 16, 2009 @ 11:16 am
  4. I don’t have time to comprehend a 1000 page bill, but my guess is that you’re overstating the case. You’ve found a clause the phases out existing plans, but you’ve found nothing that prevents new plans from being created. I’m willing to bet this bill allows new plans to be created, albeit with greater regulations. That’s not a Good Thing, but it’s a far cry from the claims made above.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — July 16, 2009 @ 12:02 pm
  5. Jeff –

    That is indeed the case, per Instapundit. However, the insurance exchange that the current market would be replaced by does everything possible to make sure the deep flaws of our current system become ever more permanent.

    Comment by Quincy — July 16, 2009 @ 5:21 pm
  6. The whole purpose of Obamacare is to kill the private healthcare industry, albeit it slowly and over time, say a generation or so.

    The final goal is something resembling Canada or Britain or even Cuba and North Korea.

    Comment by Kevin — July 16, 2009 @ 6:24 pm
  7. This is the line in the sand for freedom. What’s more sacred than controlling your own body and your own medical decisions?

    Comment by Kevin — July 16, 2009 @ 6:25 pm
  8. How do you intend to defend that line, Kevin?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — July 16, 2009 @ 7:37 pm
  9. Not a clue about defending it. Calling our Congresscritters? Like that will do any good.

    Now resisting it after this plan is enacted (and it will be enacted), that’s what the focus needs to be. Refuse to participate. If forced to pay higher taxes, refuse to pay them. Simply do not comply.

    Comment by Kevin — July 17, 2009 @ 5:41 pm
  10. The Liberty Papers: another right-wing echo chamber perpetuating uninformed urban myth.

    You’re misinterpreting the bill and it won’t make private insurance illegal, if you read the rest of the section. The bill sets new standards of accessibility and affordability for all insurance plans. BUT existing plans won’t have to meet these new standards for 5 yrs. They will be considered GRANDFATHERED plans. The part of the bill quoted, prevents new enrollment in a grandfathered plan (except dependents of the original insured person). Any NEW private enrollees must go into a plan that meets the new standards. But it will still be a private one

    Comment by Me Not U — July 21, 2009 @ 9:38 am
  11. Me Not U –

    Who dictates how plans are priced? Who dictates what they contain? Who dictates how they are sold?

    To call these plans “private” is a rather Orwellian use of the word. Yes, it may be private companies doing the actual work, but the control resides with the government. Once this bill becomes law, truly private insurance is a thing of the past.

    Comment by Quincy — July 21, 2009 @ 10:21 am
  12. Quincy,

    That’s not true at all. Even in the UK where a fairly high level of care is provided at no additional out of pocket expense (once you’ve paid your taxes) there is a burgeoning market in private supplements. Things like cosmetic dentistry and orthodontia, private hospitals with better meals and better nurse to patient ratios, Viagra, etc.

    In our own country there are lots of Medicare supplements available through private insurers.

    And what’s wrong with mandating a basic level of benefit from a for-profit insurer? We have basic levels of benefit when we’re buying auto insurance (admittedly, this is to protect “the other guy” and his insurer more than you). Buying auto insurance is also mandatory in most states.

    Don’t worry about the private insurers. They’ll be fine. At least if they provide a reasonable service for money spent. Those that don’t won’t last. It’s that failure to provide a reasonable service for money spent that has the nation chafing at the bit for some other way of accomplishing this.

    Comment by Me Not U — July 21, 2009 @ 11:47 am
  13. Me Not U –

    Have you actually, you know, read the legislation? There cannot be any private insurance that is not run through this insurance exchange that controls pricing, rating, issuance, benefits, and claims. When the government controls every aspect of an insurance policy, it is not private even if private companies are doing the work.

    “And what’s wrong with mandating a basic level of benefit from a for-profit insurer?”

    A lot, actually. Think about it for a second… your lung cancer is in remission. Why can’t you get insured against a brain aneurysm, aortic dissection, or a good old broken arm? Because it’s illegal for an insurer to offer you coverage for those things without also covering you against lung cancer.

    Obamacare takes the dumb approach, forcing insurers to cover uninsurable conditions, rather than taking the right approach and allowing people to purchase insurance to cover some but not all of their potential health problems.

    I’ll put it this way. The problem with health care today is that your doctor answers to a faceless bureaucrat who answers to a faceless bureaucrat who answers to an employer. Obamacare proposes replacing this with your doctor answering to a faceless bureaucrat who answers to a faceless bureaucrat who answers to a government regulator who answers to a politician. In both models, doctors never answer to patients. Only that will really fix things.

    (In regards to the high level of care offered by the UK’s National Health Service, try sustaining a major, but non-life threatening orthopedic injury while under that standard of care. You will spend months or years in pain and possibly end up crippled.)

    Comment by Quincy — July 21, 2009 @ 5:19 pm
  14. RE(ME NOT YOU)in regards to spending yrs, in pain.You mean like the pain I’ve been living w/since I’m uninsured?

    Comment by LANNY — July 22, 2009 @ 4:43 am
  15. Lanny –

    Yes, rather like that. There is no high standard of care in NHS, and being a patient of theirs is the equivalent of not having insurance against anything that’s painful and debilitating but not life threatening.

    Comment by Quincy — July 22, 2009 @ 7:39 am

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