Hey Right-Wingers! Please Save Us From ObamaCare!

Ted Rall

Maui Time | March 18, 2010
The details of Obama's healthcare plan are finally starting to come out. They are ugly. (Some of the lowlights are revealed below.) This nightmare should be aborted.

I am writing this as someone who wants socialized medicine. I am a leftie. I lost my medical insurance in December when my insurer, HIP, jacked up my rate to $920 a month.

America desperately needs smart, strong opposition to ObamaCare. The worst part of this bad plan is its "mandate," which requires the uninsured to buy insurance at hyper-inflated prices from greedy for-profit private corporations.

We can't count on so-called liberals to fight for us. Despite everything, they're still sucking up to Obama. We need a passel of old-fashioned conservatives to come to our rescue.

But old-fashioned libertarian conservatism is dead. What we've got instead are fools like David Rivkin.

Rivkin, a right-wing lawyer who worked in the Reagan-Bush Justice Department, recently fired the first salvo against Obama's healthcare mandate in The Wall Street Journal.

Requiring Americans to buy health insurance from a for-profit monopoly is stupid and immoral. But Rivkin and other Federal Society types, they of bow ties and tiny brains, rely on a different approach: suing. They say the ObamaCare mandate is unconstitutional. "If you say the government can mandate your behavior as far as this insurance goes," he wrote, "there will be nothing the government can't do. They can control every single way in which you dispose of your income."

There's a reason lawyers tend to be liberal. Most lawyers are smart.

Rivkin isn't. As late as 2009, Rivkin was still arguing that Bush-Cheney-Obama's "harsh interrogation techniques" weren't torture.

As Mark Hall, a law professor specializing in public health at Wake Forest University, points out, Congress enjoys "ample power and precedent through the Constitution's 'commerce clause' to regulate just about any aspect of the national economy." Congress can make us buy health insurance. The $750 penalty in the current version of the Senate bill being considered this week—for refusing to buy health insurance—would be enforced via the IRS. Congress has the power to tax income, Hall reminds us.

So the court challenges of the future will be fun for lawyers. And Rivkin will still be spouting nonsense in the WSJ. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be stuck with the horrors of ObamaCare.

What horrors they are, too.

Obama's proposed solution to our healthcare non-system, which is a national disgrace, will pour billions of dollars into the pockets of the very same people who caused the problem in the first place: insurance companies.

Insurance companies routinely deny valid claims. Their lobbyists help protect regional monopolies. They jack up rates much faster than inflation, underpay doctors, and kill tens of thousands of people a year thanks to denied claims and rates that are unaffordable. They pay their CEOs tens of millions a year—with our premiums.

Any sane solution to the healthcare disaster would begin with shutting down health insurance companies, then move on to nationalizing the entire system. Public health should not mix with the profit incentive.

But ObamaCare won't do a thing to rein in the insurers. Quite the contrary: for-profit healthcare stands to gain up to 30 million new customers.

Alas, these new clients will not be happy.

Under the Obama/Senate plan, the poor—individuals who currently earn under $14,500—would be required to go on Medicaid. Unless they don't qualify for whatever reason, in which case they would have to pay at least two percent of their income to private insurers, or get dinged $750 a year.

The working poor, meanwhile, would get charged a percent of their income on a sliding scale. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal subsidies for poor workers would be too low. People who earn between $14,500 and $43,000 a year would pay between four and 12 percent of their annual income to private insurers. (That's right: someone who makes $43,000 would have to shell out $430 a month. If they live in a high-tax place like New York,that would leave them about $2,000 a month to live on after taxes.)

And let's not forget about deductibles.

As anyone who has ever dealt with private insurance knows, deductibles are the odious practice of official non-coverage—insurance doesn't start paying (if they don't deny your claim for some BS reason) until you've already spent a certain amount that year.

I don't know why conservatives aren't talking about deductibles. They are one of the biggest secrets of ObamaCare—and one of the most damning. Like the subsidies, the "actuarial value of coverage"—the percentage of medical bills your policy would pay every year—would slide on a scale. The more you earn, the more you pay and the less you get.

Under the Senate bill, for example, a family of three earning less than $27,000—we're talking poor people here—would be fairly well covered. ObamaCare would cover 97 percent of their bills. But a family of three earning between $45,000 and $73,000 would only have 70 percent coverage. In other words, they'd have to pay a third of their medical bills out of pocket.

There would also be co-pays: $20 per doctor's visit, $250 if you had to go to the hospital, and lab tests and X-rays would come completely out of your wallet.

Faced with a slow-motion disaster like this, America needs opponents on the Right ready, willing and able to fight back. What we've got instead—incoherent Tea Partiers, idiotic lawyers like David Rivkin, and Rush Limbaugh, who claims that the existing system is perfect as it is—might as well be working for Rahm Emanuel.

(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the graphic memoir "The Year of Loving Dangerously.")


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