Good Intentions Hampered
Published in The Journal Record
December 16, 2015
In the late 1800’s France poured money, men and material into building the Panama Canal. They were spectacularly unsuccessful. Years later the concept of a canal intrigued President Theodore Roosevelt. The prevailing sentiment at the time was that the canal should go to Nicaragua presumably because clearly anything connected with the French had to be slipshod.
It was only after some thoughtful discussion and Roosevelt’s leadership that the decision was made for the United States to build the canal through Panama along the same route previously attempted by the French.
In today’s environment anyone or anything associated with the Affordable Care Act is also immediately dismissed as irrelevant and moot by the political right. As it turns out enrollment in Obamacare through the various exchanges is far less than was originally projected by the administration. The vast majority of the ten million plus current enrollees in the ACA are due to expansion of the Medicaid program.
It seems as though there are still millions of Americans (especially the young and healthy) who would prefer a fine from the IRS before they would purchase health insurance. If one does the arithmetic it requires an annual income of $50,000 before paying the fine is more expensive than actually buying a health insurance policy.
There’s one other factor that strangely enough is inspiring people without insurance to thumb their nose at the requirement to purchase a health policy. The most noteworthy consumer benefit in the Affordable Care Act was the stipulation that no one could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Before this benefit the intellectual motivation to be insured was the fear of suddenly getting sick and then not being able to acquire insurance. Now, that fear is gone. Since no one can be denied health coverage because of an existing illness the incentive to buy insurance before such an event has disappeared. Now an individual can simply roll the dice with the full knowledge that should they get sick they can step in at the last moment and acquire insurance to cover the cost of their illness.
Clearly, the framers of the ACA while providing a popular benefit outsmarted themselves and have sown the seeds of their own quandary. Like the French in Panama, overreach hampered good intentions.