Healthcare Premiums Rising: The Fault Belongs to Republicans and Conservatives

This headline over at CNS News caught my eye the other day: Obamacare Critic: ‘Premiums Are Going Up, Up, Up.’

Yes, no kidding. Those of us who don’t enjoy the gold-plated coverage plans given to government employee union members have been living the rising premium nightmare even before Obamacare made things much worse.

Here’s another recent one from The Daily Signal: “Her Health Plan Was $257 a Month. Now Her Obamacare Plan Could Be $650 a Month.”

I feel her pain. I have been with Blue Cross Blue Shield since 2005, carrying a painfully high deductible since 2012. As recently as April 2014, my every-other-month (six times a year) premium was $384.46. The following February it jumped to $402.54. They let me stay there for over a year — this past May it jumped to $660.62. My next payment, due on the 10th of September, is now $922.88.

Sure, I can blame Obama and the Democrats, since no Republican congressional votes were cast in favor of Obamacare. But here’s the problem — President George W. Bush and GOP majorities in both houses had plenty of time to reform the health care system the right way — and they didn’t.

The picture above is the text of a letter I received a couple of weeks ago from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Thank you Republicans and conservatives.

Just a little history. In 1993 “Hillarycare” was introduced by the Clinton Administration. That means Republicans had many years to make the case for consumer-driven healthcare reform. It was game-on in the debate over healthcare reform.

But like nearly every other policy area in the public square, Republicans and conservatives were AWOL in the information war.

Fourteen years ago was the first time I wrote about healthcare — so that means at least by 2002 conservatives knew well what had to change. The rest is history. Obamacare was enacted in 2010, and we’ve had six years of turmoil in the healthcare arena.

If you like your healthcare plan you can keep your healthcare plan. Ha. If you do, expect to pay double or triple the premiums.

That’s not even the worst part — the worst part is that conservatives in 2016 have still failed to reach enough Americans with the information about how they’d reform healthcare.

Here is much of my October, 2002 article — it was based on an email exchange I had with the Galen Institute‘s Grace-Marie Turner. Remember, this is PRE-Obamacare, so her emphasis is on a problem that pre-dates Obama’s “Affordable Care Act” (LOL). What she refers to, however is still very much a part of the problem in need of reform.

[The Galen Institute] bills itself as “an innovative research organization focusing on health and tax policy.”

Grace-Marie Turner, the founder of the Institute, says it nicely: “As with any health care problem, it must begin with a proper diagnosis if treatment is to be effective.”

Turner states: “The United States does not have a properly functioning market for healthcare. Third-party payment systems dominate both public and private sector plans, giving consumers the illusion that someone else is paying for their healthcare consumption.”

With government’s large and growing role in healthcare (e.g. Medicaid and Medicare), taxpayers are very often the “someone else” paying those bills.

Turner continues, “Lack of price sensitivity is one of the key drivers in spiraling costs. This also has given political leaders a blank check to enact a mountain of expensive, feel-good healthcare mandates, regulations, and price controls in various disguises.”

Contrary to what we constantly hear in the news, the biggest problem in healthcare isn’t the fault of doctors or hospitals or drug companies or insurance providers. Instead, it’s government tax policy and the resulting evolution away from the basic principle of insurance.

During the 1940s and 1950s, government tax policies began to give incentives to consumers to get their health insurance through their employers. Employers’ contributions to group health insurance plans were no longer counted as taxable income for employees.

This might be great for those who have employers purchasing group plans, but it isn’t for those who do not. Millions of Americans are self-employed or work for small and medium size businesses that don’t have access to the group plans that receive what amounts to a generous government subsidy.

Then as demand for healthcare increased through the years, insurance policies moved away from covering just large or catastrophic costs to becoming a pre-payment plan for routine services. A simple comparison is that if auto insurance were like health insurance, regular car maintenance would be insured and not just accidents.

The attitude among many policy makers is that healthcare is too important to be left to the individual. Galen believes the opposite, that it’s too important not to be left to the individual. Policy makers have legislated many counter-productive and even harmful solutions. Better ones can be found at the Galen Institute.

Grace-Marie Turner says we need to “inject some sanity into the system by engaging the power of consumers to force efficiencies in the health sector, as they do in other sectors of the economy, by demanding the best value for their money.”

Without addressing tax policy in the healthcare reform debate, skyrocketing premiums and increasing taxes will continue to act as a scalpel cutting more money from our wallets.

That’s 14 years ago. Hello. Republican and conservatives — it’s high time to learn how to fight in the information war — so they can win public support and enact legislation. This failure, like their failure on every other issue  — has led to where we are now.