When Congress runs into a problem, it has one solution: Throw money at it.
The Affordable Care Act had one big problem: It was unaffordable. So Congress did what it always does, and threw money at it — other people’s money.
You see, everyone always knew that that the Affordable Care Act was a Ponzi scheme, but the Congress of 2010 figured it would be a decade or two before the scheme collapsed and the bills came due. That’s because they counted on Democratic presidents playing along with the scheme — first Barack Obama and then, oh I don’t know, maybe Hillary Clinton. Congress gave the president the authority to spend as much money as necessary to keep health insurance “affordable” for everyone being forced to buy it. Oh yes, and to make it possible for insurers to do the impossible and offer low-cost health insurance to people who were already sick.
This goes against the very concept of insurance — which is a gamble offered by someone with money to someone with the potential to need money. The insurer is betting that the insured will never need the insurance, and thus the insurer will win his gamble and make a tidy profit. In the case of health care, the insured is betting that they will get sick and recoup the cost of their premiums, and hopefully more, so that they will come out ahead instead of behind when catastrophe strikes.
But Obamacare threw that on its head. By ordering coverage of pre-existing conditions, the government was pretending that math doesn’t exist. The only way to fill the gaping actuarial hole in the bottom of Obamacare was for the government to start shoveling money into it — big money — billions of dollars of money. It made everyone feel good except for the taxpayers who were subsidizing the Ponzi scheme, and then — when there wasn’t enough money to fill the hole fast enough, it started to aggravate the intended beneficiaries of Obamacare, who were surprised to see their premiums go through the roof.
Oh what a tangled web we weave when at first we do deceive.
But what the Democratic Congress didn’t count on in 2010 was that Donald Trump would be president in 2017. Because he is, and because he disagrees with the backwards math of Obamacare, President Trump announced on Thursday that he won’t fund the subsidies being paid to insurers that are intended to make up for the artificially low premiums being charged to consumers.
That move by Trump is expected to save the government $10 billion in 2018. It will also leave millions of people in the lurch who have gotten used to the idea that they are entitled to low-cost insurance. Those millions may get mad, and they may hold Trump or the Republican Party responsible for their own financial hardship. That’s a gamble that Trump is apparently willing to take in the service of truth.
The fake math of Obamacare has never made sense. Why should the government take money from taxpayers to subsidize other people’s health care? Sure, it makes Democrats and liberal Republicans feel good, but sometimes we have to do what’s right instead of what feels good.
Congress hasn’t written a law that requires the government to help me to pay my life insurance premiums, or to mandate that I carry a minimum amount of insurance — let’s say $1 million — even though it would be better for my family if I did. Nor has the government told my insurance company that it would have to sell me that million-dollar policy at a ridiculously cheap rate — let’s say $500 a month — even though I were suffering from a terminal illness and probably wouldn’t be alive to make payments for another year.
But that’s exactly what Congress has done with health care. The Democrats made up a Peter Pan plan that told everyone the big lie — you can have something for nothing — and then they authorized the president to clap his hands “if he believes.”
We watched President Obama clapping his hands furiously for six years, and he convinced a lot of people that Obamacare was the real deal, but the magic has worn off. In Montana, for instance, more than half the individual policy owners in the state are going to see a 22 percent increase in premiums next year. That’s just plain unacceptable.
President Trump knows a bad thing when he sees it, so he has stopped clapping, and is instead doing something useful — authorizing executive orders that expose the Affordable Care Act as the sham many of us warned about in the first place. Let the chips fall where they may.
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org