In passing Obamacare, its supporters promised the moon. Obamacare was allegedly going to cost $938 billion over ten years, result in 23 million people getting insurance through its exchanges as of 2017, reduce the typical family’s premiums by $2,500 a year, and make sure that if you liked your health plan and doctor, you could keep your health plan and doctor.
Seven years later, Obamacare is projected to cost $1.938 trillion over ten years (exactly $1 trillion more), only 9 million people have insurance through its exchanges as of 2017 (just 40 percent of the original CBO projection), the typical family’s premiums have exploded, and millions of people who liked their plans lost their plans, as Obamacare effectively banned them. Many of them lost their doctors as well.
But since we’re now a fair ways removed from those fateful days in 2010 when the Democrats rammed Obamacare through the Senate (with no votes to spare) and the House (with three votes to spare) over unanimous Republican opposition, it’s perhaps worth offering a quick refresher course on why, exactly, Obamacare is so bad. Here are arguably the five worst things about it:
It denies Americans choice and undermines their liberty. Why shouldn’t Americans be able to choose the insurance they want, rather than being limited to the insurance that former-President Obama and the Democrats think they should have? Why, for the first time in more than 240 years of United States history, should the federal government order private American citizens to buy a particular product or service, merely as a condition of living in “the land of the free”? A nation conceived in liberty shouldn’t have a health-care law rooted in coercion.
It denies Americans affordable health insurance. According to the Government Accountability Office, on the eve of Obamacare’s implementation, the cheapest health insurance available for a healthy 30-year-old woman in the typical (median) state cost $744 in annual premiums. Under Obamacare, the cheapest health insurance available for a healthy 30-year-old woman, based on the U.S. average for 2017, costs $3,107 in annual premiums—more than four times as much. For a man of the same age, the increase is almost five-fold (from $623 to $3,107).
Over the past two years alone, the average premium has risen a whopping 40 percent under Obamacare, as its slow-motion death spiral has begun to accelerate. According to Obamacare supporter Charles Gaba, for every $100 that a plan in the individual market cost, on average, in 2015, it cost $112 in 2016 (a 12 percent increase) and costs $140 now (another 25 percent increase). So, on average, a plan that cost $3,750 in 2015 costs $5,250 today.
This is largely due to Obamacare’s hubristic redefining of “insurance.” Obamacare rejects health insurance’s traditional understanding and transforms it into something more akin to letting people buy homeowners insurance—at the same price—after their house is on fire. This clunky way of providing protections for preexisting conditions is a case study in government incompetence. No wonder polling finds Americans want different preexisting-conditions protections that don’t send costs soaring.
It raises federal spending by about $2 trillion when we’re nearly $20 trillion in debt. Even before Obamacare was passed, our health-care entitlements were leading us toward bankruptcy. The last thing we needed was a new health-care entitlement that would add another $2 trillion or so in federal spending over a decade, and much more in decades to come. In contrast, a good conservative alternative would save more than $1 trillion in federal spending versus Obamacare (without hiding 12 figures’ worth of spending, like Obamacare does).
It fuels the unseemly alliance between Big Government and Big Business. Big Pharma and the hospital lobby pushed for Obamacare’s passage. But what about insurers? Didn’t Obamacare bring them to heel? In fact, according to the Fortune 500, the ten largest U.S. health insurers’ collective profits rose from $8 billion in 2008, the year Obama was elected, to $15 billion in 2015—nearly doubling. Big Government and Big Business are natural allies, not enemies. They boost each other, while the little guy—and the small business—loses.
It consolidates and centralizes power and money. Obamacare is 2,400 pages of federal largess, supplemented by a stack of federal regulations that’s at least four times heftier than the statute itself. As Charles Kesler has written, “This new kind of statute—one hates to call it law—is not meant to be ‘a settled, standing rule,’ as John Locke defined law.” Rather, Kesler continues, Obamacare is “deliberately…left vague so as to give maximum discretion to the unholy trinity of bureaucrats, congressional staffers, and private-sector ‘stakeholders’ who will flesh out the act with thousands of pages of regulations.”
In other words, Obamacare is the triumph of the arbitrary rule of man over the fixed rule of law. And even beyond such inappropriate deference to bureaucratic whim, it has also been a vehicle for executive lawlessness.
While Obamacare tightens the screws on Americans’ liberty by consolidating power (just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor), a river of taxpayer money flows from the tributaries to the nation’s capital. A couple of years after Obamacare’s passage, five of the seven wealthiest counties in America, based on median family income, were within commuting distance of Washington, D.C.—a city known for making almost nothing. In a nation that includes New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and many other grand cities, D.C.‘s dominance is telling.
Alexis de Tocqueville warned that in a democracy in which “administrative centralization” has taken root, “a more insufferable despotism [will] prevail than in any of the absolute monarchies of Europe.” Contrast this warning with the flourishing of freedom that one has historically found in America, such as along Route 66.
Obamacare is perhaps the worst case of administrative centralization, and hence the greatest affront to the Founders’ vision, that our country has yet seen—and if not repealed, it will breed even worse examples. But if it is repealed, as Kesler writes, “Obama’s legacy and his claim to leadership will lie in ruins.” The fate of Obamacare, therefore, is inexorably tied to the fate of America’s founding principles.
This is a war, then, that must be won. Moreover, it can and should be won. If conservatives proceed in a strategic and determined manner—and both parts are equally important—Obamacare will soon lie in ruins, liberty will soon sprout like new blades of grass, and American society will have reclaimed valuable space in which to flourish.