5.15.2013

Obamacare Woes for Democrats...

Many passionate arguments in support of universal healthcare rest on the notion that it is absurd that citizens of the most powerful, most wealthy nation in the history of the world cannot afford regular check-ups. While I agree, in theory, that people should be able to get the help they need when they need it, it is also true that healthcare does not exist in a vacuum, and that many historic factors, going back to when decisions on how to tax insurance benefits (and surely other data points even before then) occurred, have conspired to create the high-cost state of affairs which exists today.

The high costs, some of which Obamacare was ostensibly enacted to remedy, but which may just be added to by the legislation, have made the simple question of whether or not Americans believe health care should be universal much more complicated. In other words, in a question which should have been asked with more frequency in the run up to the historic vote, if we all get insurance, who is going to pay for it?

In general, and ceteris paribus, higher taxes mean that less jobs are available in a given economy when compared to that same economy with lower taxes. Of course one could argue that higher taxes mean more benefits, an ability for some people to forgo working, etc. However, protections can take time to enact, and, in any case, cost something themselves, whether in dollar or social cost terms. Taxes, while at some level beneficial, at higher levels are not.

And, despite the early claims of the Obama Administration to the contrary, several of Obamacare's provisions, particularly penalties for non-compliance, are taxes. Indeed, that very notion is what the Supreme Court relied on in upholding the bill. Therefore there are going to be costs. Among others, it seems that if companies are paying more to comply with the bill, or are paying taxes to avoid it, then less people will be employed.

While as a society we should ask ourselves questions like 'shouldn't everyone who wants health care be able to obtain it', shouldn't we also ask whether people who want to be productive should be able to? Shouldn't we wonder a little bit more about how providing health care without attacking some of the root causes for its astronomical costs will tax resources? Shouldn't we have attacked the front-end problems with health care before trying to fix the back-end? It seems to me we should have.

It also seems clear that, even among those who passed the bill 'we should pass to see what it contains', there is agreement with that theory. It could be a tough mid-term for the Democrats...

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