Hurricane Obamacare: The Imperfect Storm

Hurricane Obamacare is forecast to hit the shores of the United States on October 1 of this year. That is when the "Open Enrollment" period for plans that comply with the new "minimum essential health benefits" (aka HHS Mandates) kicks in…and kick it will.

The storm surge promises to increase premium costs by well over 30% as the federal government steps in and tells "we the people" what type of insurance coverage we must have. The director of the HHS has been given broad authority to define what these "minimum essential health benefits" are. In this light, it is entirely conceivable that the premium increases may be significantly higher than 30%.

In anticipation of the coming storm, many employers have responded by converting employees from full-time employees to part-time employees. Many part-time employees have had their hours cut to ensure that they remain under the magical 29 hour part-time employee definition established by the federal government. Why would employers do this? Simply put, they wish to avoid the mandate to provide federally-approved insurance for their employees. They cannot afford to do so.

These cutbacks are not only happening in the private sector. They are also happening in the public sector. Among the hardest hit are public safety employees, especially part-time firefighters. Many communities now have gaps in their public safety coverage as a direct result of Hurricane Obamacare cost avoidance. Mutual aid agreements will be strained to maintain some measure of public safety.

But wait, there's more…for those government employees who do have health insurance coverage, don't forget that their premiums will be increasing by at least 30%. While many state legislators are justifiably concerned about the long-term financial obligations associated with Medicaid expansion, no one seems to be focusing on the fact that government is an employer as well. As premium costs increase, so does the price of government at all levels.

Government will respond to these premium increases in basically one of two ways. Cut services, as many have done already in regards to public safety, or increase taxes.

More money is being taken out of the pockets of our citizens to pay for federal tax increases (remember the 2% Social Security/Medicare increase?). More money is being drained from businesses to pay for higher insurance premiums (or penalties for not doing so) causing them to cut back hours or lay-off employees. More workers will take home less from their employers. More money will then be drained from our remaining taxpayers to pay for the increase in the price of government due to Obamacare. The only thing we won't have "more" of is quality healthcare. That is what I mean by the "imperfect storm."

Coping with a price of government that swirls upwards out of control is not the only concern. While many in state government are focused on whether or not it is the state or federal government bureaucrats who will have the honor of staffing the complaint hotline for Obamacare (the subject of HB 4111), we should be more concerned about patient care. The real reason to be concerned is that, under the bills introduced so far by our elected officials, HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius controls your healthcare decisions not you and your doctor.

Hurricane Obamacare was launched on the premise that it would "lower costs, improve quality and coverage, and protect consumer choice." As more and more folks "read the bill" to find out what's in it, it is becoming more and more clear that it fails on all three objectives. In its wake, states will be left to pick up the pieces if they don't act now to protect themselves. Our state needs to pursue ways to ride out this storm that actually achieve the stated objectives of Obamacare. If we do so, we not only have the opportunity to protect our citizens, we also open the door to a Michigan healthcare system that will be the envy of the rest of the nation.