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ObamaCare relaunch – still playing God with the free market and your health

 

D-day arrived for ObamaCare Saturday, and began with an 11 hour shutdown of HealthCare.gov—the problem plagued website intended to provide easy access to affordable insurance for millions of Americans.

The contraption is functioning better but is still terribly inadequate. It can only handle 50,000 users at a time, well short of the volume needed to assist the millions of Americans who must purchase health insurance by year end or face fines.

Those eligible for subsidies must use the system, but often the system can’t verify eligibility for aid. Many are in limbo -- applications already initiated are stalled, lost or otherwise can’t be completed. Healthcare.gov software to get insurance companies paid subsidies is not functioning effectively, and the small business site that was to offer group coverage has been postponed one year.

Only God can make a tree, and in his creation, only the invisible hand can make a market.

Eventually Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s website repair czar, will have this monster fulfilling all its functions, but likely it will be a balky, frustrating website, much like other federal websites or those run by private firms enjoying monopoly power.

Health insurance will be right up there with dealing with tax filing. 

Bureaucrats will have easy access to sensitive personal data, which Obama administration political moles can use to target, harass and sometimes destroy critics, and simply occupy millions of hours of citizens’ time that could be used more productively.

Welcome to statism -- the ants of capitalism herded into a bureaucratic hell to serve the masters of a grander design.

All this aside, let’s look at the list of promises that will remain unkept when the website is fully repaired, no matter how well it may run:

1. If you like your insurance, you can keep it.

2. If you like your doctor, you can keep him.

3. If you need help finding the coverage you need, we will make it easy.

4. And, by organizing the health care market under the guiding hand of the omnipotent state, we will make insurance cheaper.

The first two promises are forever broken. Insurance companies can’t bring back most policies the Affordable Health Care Act declared illegal, a presidential edict notwithstanding. 

And insurance companies are slashing doctors and hospitals from their networks to meet arbitrary ObamaCare mandates.

Folks who had perfectly adequate policies, which were delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars in life saving benefits from specialized physicians for cancer treatment and other complex illnesses, have lost those benefits and been offered replacement policies cluttered with unneeded services. For example, pediatric vision care for childless couples in their 50s and birth control benefits for nuns.

Many Americans will literally face death when old policies lapse and can no longer pay for the care they need. But as a Washington lawyer and ardent support of the president insisted, some sacrifice is needed by a few for the progress of the many.

To me, this stunning assurance had echoes of  Joseph Stalin, who killed thousands building the Moscow subway! -- Some must simply be lost in the name of progress and serving the state.

Overall, premium costs are skyrocketing for many Americans, not because their old coverage was inadequate or because new coverage is better, but because they are in markets now served by fewer providers and less competition than before. 

Businesses are forced to jettison full time positions in favor or part-time workers to avoid paying health benefits they can no longer afford and avoid penalties that will be imposed beginning in 2015.

Americans are burdened with about 20 new taxes and fees and higher premiums and co-pays for insurance policies that work about the same or worse for most middle-class families -- the folks the president and his fellow Democrats say they want to help.

It took a triumph of hubris for the president to believe he could sign a single law that would replace markets in a U.S. health care sector as large as the economy of France.

Only God can make a tree, and in his creation, only the invisible hand can make a market.

When the government tries to replace free markets, it plays God ... and does so very badly.

Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and widely published columnist. He is the five time winner of the MarketWatch best forecaster award. Follow him on Twitter @PMorici1.