Let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that HR 3200 is completely revenue neutral and that no one will be taxed a single extra penny, because, for the purposes of my discussion below, it doesn’t matter whether this is true or not. If you comment on this article and say anything about revenue neutrality or no increased taxes (on people making less than that magical number of $250K/year, of course), I will simply laugh at you for not reading the article and shouting out talking points.
It has been established that insurance companies struck a deal with Washington. The deal: You (Washington) force everyone to buy an insurance plan and we (the big bad insurance companies) will support a plan to insure people with preexisting conditions.
That sounds great, right? I mean, it’s just like auto insurance. The reason auto insurance is so cheap (I pay more for car insurance than I do for health insurance… so figure that one out for me) is that the auto insurance companies have a better risk pool because both good and bad drivers are forced to buy insurance.
You see, what would happen if not everyone were forced to buy auto insurance is that people who are not risk averse and feel that they are great drivers would buy either a watered-down policy or no policy at all. The bad drivers (knowing that they are bad drivers or otherwise accident prone) and the risk averse would pay a higher premium for better insurance. The insurance company would really have very little way to tell who was buying the better packages because he is just a bad driver and who is simply risk averse. This problem is known as adverse selection, which often occurs in situations where there is an asymmetry of information, meaning one or both parties have information that the other does not have.
Because of this problem of adverse selection, the insurance companies would charge a very large premium for the bad drivers (i.e. the policies with more coverage) and a very small premium for the good drivers (i.e. the policies with less coverage).
Now, when the government steps in and forces EVERYONE to buy a certain minimum level of coverage, what happens? Well, now the insurance companies know that some of the drivers are very good drivers who will rarely, if ever, make a claim, while some are the bad drivers who will constantly be making claims, probably in excess of the premiums they pay. But, because of the risk pooling now in effect, the insurance company can charge the bad drivers a smaller premium than before because the good drivers are making up the difference. In other words, the good drivers are subsidizing the bad drivers’ insurance premiums when they are forced to buy a minimum coverage in excess of what they would have without the law forcing the purchase of a minimum coverage policy.
This is great for bad drivers, and terrible for good drivers. Not only is it bad for good drivers because they pay more, but there are more bad drivers on the road because the good drivers are subsidizing their bad driving practices! And, on top of that, some of the good drivers who would have bought less expensive policies and then either not repaired minor cosmetic issues that are pricey to repair, or would have paid out of pocket because their plan didn’t cover it will start getting those repairs done, increasing both demand for and, therefore, cost of auto repairs.
Back to health care:
The health insurance lobby is not entirely stupid. They understand what’s at risk here. Either they cover preexisting conditions, or they face competition against a “public option” which will most certainly cover preexisting conditions at a fraction of the cost, being backed by the seemingly bottomless purse of the United States Treasury (ultimately, this is tax payers’ money… and mostly “rich” tax payers’ money). So, they cut a deal with Washington.
The health insurance companies know that if they can create a better risk pool by forcing young, healthy people into plans with certain “minimum standards”, then they can offer lower insurance premiums to older, sicker people and they can offer to cover preexisting conditions. The solution is clear: get into bed with Washington.
Just like auto insurance, this is great for those who will use their health insurance the most: the sick and the old. This is a terrible deal for those who wouldn’t typically use their health insurance all that much: the young and the healthy.
This is a massive transfer of cost from the sick to the healthy. And, because the healthy will be forced to buy more expensive policies, they will be more apt to use the policy, increasing the demand of and, therefore, the cost of health care.
It all sounds like a good deal to anyone with a heart. However, when you look at the unintended consequences, you have to ask yourself if it’s right. The people who will be disproportionately hurt by this deal are the young, healthy people in our economy. It will become more expensive to ensure low wage earners (who are typically younger, healthier workers), and it will cost those young people who are either unemployed or self-employed a considerable amount more money to buy health insurance, because they will be forced into buying more expensive coverage to meet minimum coverage standards.
Ultimately, this will cost young, healthy people their jobs as they become more expensive to insure. It will keep unemployment rates higher among the very people this bill is aimed to help: the poor (low income earners) and the unemployed.
For those of you who have preexisting conditions and think this is a great thing, I only ask that you say out loud what you are truly asking for: “I want to force healthy people to pay more money so that I can pay less. I want to take from the healthy for my benefit.” Don’t try to make this seem like some nobel purpose you are pursuing – some right to which all Americans are entitled. You are in this for yourself. You are as greedy as Bernie Madoff, but you are trying to use the government to force people to give to you, whereas Bernie Madoff just committed fraud. You both have the same end goal: more for yourself at the expense of others.