~~By Sven Larson~~


Obamacare was supposed to give everybody health insurance and shield us from health care rationing. Right?

Well… behold this article from the Washington Post a few days ago:

Tens of thousands of Americans who can’t get health insurance due to pre-existing medical problems will be blocked from a program designed to help them because funding for the measure is running low. Obama administration officials said Friday that the state-based “high risk pools” set up under the 2010 health-care law will be closed to new applicants as soon as Saturday and no later than March 2, depending on the state.

Here we go. This is a very first glimpse of one aspect of health care rationing under Obamacare.

The “Affordable” Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, gave every American the right to buy health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions. The “Affordable” Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, still gives every American the right to buy health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions. It’s just that the government will not do anything to help those with pre-existing conditions avail themselves of that right.

The right is reduced to a piece of paper, about as practically useful as the right to free speech guaranteed every Soviet citizen under the USSR constitution.

The Washington Post continues:

However, they stressed that coverage for about 100,000 people who are currently enrolled in the high risk pools won’t be affected. “We’re being very careful stewards of the money that has been appropriated to us and we wanted to balance our desire to maximize the number of people who can gain from this program while making sure people who are in the program have coverage,” said Gary Cohen, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “This was the most prudent step for us to take at this point in time.”

That was an impressive pile of nothing from Director Cohen’s mouth. If we peel away the bureaucratic language, what he is saying in plain English is that the government is perfectly fine with selecting a chosen few who will get the privilege of being sponsored by the government, while leaving others in the dust to fend for themselves.

Let’s be very clear about this: one of the main arguments for Obamacare was that everyone in America would get a government-sponsored opportunity to buy health insurance. No one would be left behind anymore, and everyone with a pre-existing condition was going to have health insurance.

The decision to cap out the high-risk pools is nothing short of government-imposed health care rationing, a subject I discussed at length in my book Remaking America: Welcome to the Dark Side of the Welfare State. There I explain how rationing works in a country that has gone “all the way” that Obama wants to go, namely to create a single-payer health care system. I provide page after page of appalling examples of what happens when government first promises health care, then defaults on its promise. I relay stories of children dying of curable conditions, of patients suffocating to death, all for lack of staff and medical equipment.

This is, again, a couple of steps farther down the red brick road to socialized health care, but the principle is fundamentally the same: government makes a promise, then defaults on it because it does not have enough money to pay for the full cost of its own promise.

Back to the Washington Post, which tries to spin this in a way so that it looks like the blame is on private insurers:

From the start, analysts questioned whether the $5 billion that Congress appropriated for the “Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan”— as the program is called — was sufficient. Initial fears that as many as 375,000 sick people would swamp the pools and bankrupt them by 2012 did not pan out. This is largely because, even with premiums comparable to those charged to healthy people, the plans sold through the pools are often expensive.

How dare those pesky private insurance providers charge anything even close to a market price for an insurance plan…?

The problem with high-risk patients is not that they are high risk to insurers, but that insurance providers are not allowed to develop the right kind of products for every niche of the health insurance market. Government gets involved with regulations on what insurance plans should cover, how they can be sold, and then inject subsidies into the mix, further distorting the price mechanism of the free market. Taken together, the government’s presence discourages many providers from entering the high-risk niche. This leaves few providers which drives the market closer to oligopoly, one of the most inefficient market forms – and one of the most expensive for consumers.

A government-free health insurance market is far better for everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions, than any market form where government is involved.

Then in the Washington Post article, health care bureaucrat, Director Cohen of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Surveillance, makes an ominous statement:

[Only] about 135,000 people have gotten coverage at some point but they are proving far more costly to insure than predicted, Cohen said. Many go untreated while they are uninsured, exacerbating their medical problems. When they finally do get covered through a high-risk pool they are in immediate need of expensive care. “What we’ve really learned through the course of this program is that this is really not a sensible way for the health-care system to be run,” Cohen said.

So what is a “sensible way” to “run” a health care system? Can you say “public option”? “Single payer”?

I seriously doubt Obama would have a shot at getting Congress to agree to further government incursions into the health care system, especially if it is going to come with big new costs. That said, he does not need Congressional support to re-activate the public option from Obamacare. Once it is re-activated it will gobble up segment after segment of the health insurance market and basically create a single-payer system by fiat.

The administration’s own failure to deliver on the high-risk pools – which by the way looks designed to fail – opens up for the one thing that supporters of Obamacare promised it would not lead to: a government monopoly on funding and providing health care.

That, in turn, would put our health care system on auto pilot right into the dark clouds of health care rationing