IBD - Posted 09/22/2010
The first provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act take effect Thursday, and casualties are already piling up. This week's include children who'll have to go without health insurance.
The earliest victim of ObamaCare was nHealth, a Virginia-based insurer that specializes in health savings accounts. It announced in June that "considerable uncertainties" created by the new law would force it to close its doors by year-end. The customers and 50 employees of the once-promising startup will have their lives turned inside out by this decision.
Now, starting Thursday, any health insurance company offering child-only plans has to accept kids — anyone under 19 — with pre-existing conditions. This mandate has the potential to bankrupt insurers, and big carriers WellPoint, Cigna and CoventryOne, Humana, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna, and Golden Rule have reacted by announcing they'll no longer sell new child-only policies.
Some will stop writing the policies at the national level while others will leave markets only in certain states. But it won't stop there. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger told the Hill newspaper that she guarantees "it's happening probably in every state."
Not every insurer will quit the market. But those staying will operate in a less-competitive environment, which will hurt consumers.
If parents wait until their kids are seriously ill before buying coverage, as many will, insurers will have no choice but to raise rates on child-only policies to offset the high costs of benefits they'll be paying out. If that option is denied by federal regulators, "then they could be forced to raise rates for adults in the individual market as well," according to Heritage Foundation analyst Kathryn Nix.
The White House says it's unhappy. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs complained that insurers are making "decisions on the backs of children and families that need their help," as if they are charities with unlimited funds.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, meanwhile, is treating insurers as criminal enterprises. She's warned there will be "zero tolerance" for those that pass on "misinformation" about ObamaCare and blame it for their "unjustified rate increases." Carriers she deems in violation of her directives "may be excluded from health insurance exchanges," the heavily regulated and mandated insurance networks coming in 2014.
Wasn't ObamaCare going to cut costs and expand coverage? Instead, costs will be higher and, while some of the uninsured will finally get coverage, many of the insured will lose theirs. Maybe the first victim of the Democrats' health overhaul was the truth.
Happy Birthday, ObamaCare. Six months old today and raising the cost of medical care, restricting patient options and causing employers to drop workers three years before even being fully implemented.
Any reform that falls short of a patient-centered, free-market health care reform based on choice, competition, accountability and personal responsibility is doomed to fail. Instead, ObamaCare removes choice from patients and doctors, strangles market competition, provides no accountability from government and relegates personal responsibility — and control — to the ash heap of history.