Well! The mask has finally come off!
Many of us have long worried that the Affordable Health Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was just a stalking horse for the eventual implementation of a single-payer health system in which private health insurance would be replaced by a government-run health system. On Aug. 9, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to have vindicated our fears.
On the Las Vegas PBS program, "Nevada Week in Review," Reid reportedly said that the implementation of Obamacare was a step toward an eventual single-payer national health care system. Reid stated he thinks the country has to "work our way past" insurance-based health care and that Congress could eventually reform the Affordable Health Care Act into one providing universal health care without relying on the private health insurance industry.
"What we've done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we're far from having something that's going to work forever," Reid said.
When show panelist Steve Sebelius asked if that meant eventually doing away with insurance-based coverage, Reid replied, "Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes."
Many conservative critics of Obamacare, such as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, have long held the view that the Affordable Care Act was "specifically designed to fail" and therefore pave the way for an eventual national health delivery plan.
Notwithstanding his apparent support of the present legislation, President Obama has, in the past, expressed his attraction to the idea of a single-payer system.
For example, during the last election, a YouTube video emerged which shows Obama speaking at what is described as an "AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women's Rights Conference" in 2003. In the video, Obama is heard to say:
"I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of American, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. That's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we've got to take back the White House, we've got to take back the Senate, and we've got to take back the House."
The "Jim" referred to in Obama's comments is Jim Duffett, director of the Illinois Advocacy Group Campaign for Better Health Care. When interviewed in 2009, Duffett said, yes, Obama did support single-payer, but also talked about the need to be "strategic" and work "within political limitations," which he attributed to Obama's training as a community organizer. Duffett went on to say, "You have to figure out who's with you, who's against you, how you divide and conquer and move that football down the field ... I've never felt that his (Obama's) core principles for accessible, guaranteed health care for everyone were ever compromised ..."
If Sen.Coburn is correct and Obamacare was intentionally designed to fail and thus create the demand for a government-run system, we should be able to find "cracks" in it as it gets implemented.
Let's take a look:
- Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced a one-year delay in one of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act, the employer mandate. This provision was to require businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health coverage or face a fine.
- A recent report by Lisa Myers of NBC News revealed that more and more businesses are deciding to reduce hours for many employees in order to avoid the employer mandate. Of course, reduced hours mean reduced income. Hardly a healthy economic stimulus.
- The president continues to insist that under Obamacare, as he said in his pre-vacation press conference, people are going to be able to "sign up for affordable health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market." However, the preliminary rate projections do not appear to support this assurance. Florida, for instance, projects an increase of 35 percent and Ohio an increase of 41 percent. With more coming.
- Even labor unions - always a bulwark of support for Obamacare - are having their doubts. Leaders of prominent labor unions have vocally complained that "unintended consequences" from Obamacare were "causing nightmare scenarios" which would "shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class."
- Enforcement of a number of key eligibility requirements for the law's health insurance subsidies has been delayed - the government will now simply employ the "honor system" and take the applicant's word that he or she is qualified.
- Last, a major provision of Obamacare which was designed to benefit all of us - caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs - has also been delayed until 2015.
Montana Sen. Max Baucus, one of the authors of Obamacare and one of its biggest proponents, seems also to be having second thoughts.
While still publicly proclaiming that he supports the Act, he recently stunned administration officials by stating openly that he thinks it's headed for a "train wreck" because of bumbling implementation.
While most of us would prefer to avoid a "train wreck," it seems that Harry Reid and perhaps President Obama himself might welcome it if it results in government-run national health care.
Guest columnist Bonenberger is an attorney who lives and practices in Wheeling.