I would be tempted to say that I told you so—again and again—except that there’s no point in such a complaint, because the American public was listening when we warned them that ObamaCare would destroy private health insurance. The only people who weren’t listening were the Democrats in Congress—who also knew that it was true, but who wanted that disastrous outcome.And now the outcome is here—but faster and worse than we expected.
A group of health insurance companies just announced that the provisions of ObamaCare are already causing them to increase their insurance premiums.
In addition to pledging that the law would restrain increases in Americans’ insurance premiums, Democrats front-loaded the legislation with early provisions they hoped would boost public support. Those include letting children stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, eliminating co-payments for preventive care, and barring insurers from denying policies to children with pre-existing conditions, plus the elimination of the coverage caps.Weeks before the election, insurance companies began telling state regulators it is those very provisions that are forcing them to increase their rates.
Of course, all of this was predictable and was predicted by opponents of the legislation. But that’s not the important part of the story.
The real news is the Obama administration’s reaction, which has been to demand that insurers be denied permission to increase their premiums—and that they be punished even for communicating to the public about the cause of the rate increases. As Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius declared, “There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”
An outraged Michael Barone—and Barone is a sober establishment type who doesn’t often get angry—describes this as another instance of “gangster government.”
[Sebelius] promises to issue regulations to require “state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases” (which would presumably mean all rate increases).And there’s a threat. “We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.”
That’s a significant date, the first year in which state insurance exchanges are slated to get a monopoly on the issuance of individual health insurance policies. Sebelius is threatening to put health insurers out of business in a substantial portion of the market if they state that Obamacare is boosting their costs.
“Congress shall make no law,” reads the First Amendment, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Sebelius’ approach is different: “zero tolerance” for dissent.
But Barone doesn’t address the other part of this story. Jack Wakeland sent me a note reminding me of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s similar efforts under the reign of RomneyCare.”Deval Patrick’s arbitrary cap on rates for small group insurance plans was the starting point for a cascade of events that is rapidly destroying the private health insurance market in Massachusetts—beginning with small group health insurance plans used by independent contractors, self-employed businessmen, family-owned and operated businesses, and other small businesses.
“Last Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began taking the nation down the road that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has been traveling: towards the end of private health insurance.”
We had assumed that ObamaCare would not destroy private health insurance until it is fully implemented in 2014, giving us time to defund it, to slow it down, and then to repeal it. But Sebelius is putting us on notice that the Obama administration intends to use the vast and arbitrary regulatory powers granted in the law to shut down private insurance now.
That’s why we’re going to need a new crop of radicals in Congress. They won’t just need to engage in parliamentary stalling tactics to gum up the legislative works. They will need to launch an all-out battle to restrain an administration that is fully committed to using its unchecked, tyrannical regulatory power to override the will of the people and destroy what is left of American liberty.
So we need a new group of legislators who will show zero tolerance.—RWT