Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Democrat Chris Murphy: Obamacare is “the end of health care”

Jerry Stratton, August 2, 2017

If you like your health plan…: Then I said, if you like your health plan you can keep it!; Barack Obama; ObamaCare; Affordable Care Act

Now that congress is facing the joke, they’re no longer laughing.

Senator Chris Murphy is angry at President Trump, because Trump has “threatened” to enforce the law as written. The law in question is the misnamed Affordable Care Act, which, when congress passed it, required members of congress and their staff to live under its rules as well and pay for their own plans. But because it turned out the Affordable Care Act is actually Unaffordable, President Obama’s administration exempted them from that law, in a very convoluted manner that makes even less sense than the law itself and is almost certainly in itself illegal, not just unethical.

President Trump has threatened to revoke that exemption. Senator Murphy doesn’t want that. If President Trump requires congressional offices to live under the health care law that congress requires us to live under, Murphy says, that will “cut off health care”. It will “end health care”.

This is a clear threat to Congress: pass my health bill or as punishment I will end health care for you, your staff, & your constituents. Trump isn’t saying these things will happen naturally. He has the power to cut off health care for leg branch employees & crater exchanges.

That’s right. Democrats know what Obamacare’s effects are. They know that the ACA is really the Unaffordable Care Act. Just like its conservative critics predicted it would be, that it was for all practical purposes designed to be unaffordable.

And if they have to live under it the same way we do, it’s the same thing as ending health care, it’s as if Trump “cut off health care” for them.

He doesn’t seem to realize that this means that health care has already been cut off and ended for those of us who do not receive the special subsidies congress gets.1

The way the ACA originally applied to congress is that they were eligible only for the same subsidies anyone else using Obamacare would be eligible for. But most congressional staffers make more than $30,000 a year, some significantly more than that. That’s right about where ACA subsidies ended for individuals, at the time.

That’s also right about where the average personal income lands, too. And it turns out that the cost of health care plans under the ACA are pretty onerous when you’re only making $30,000 a year.

You would think this would be a clue: the ACA raised the cost of health care plans so drastically that the average American was going to have trouble paying it. Perhaps we should repeal the ACA and start over with something new that doesn’t hurt people so much.

But if you thought that way, you’d not be the average congressperson. In the mind of representatives like Senator Murphy, the ACA was just fine for other people, it just needed to be fixed for congress.

So what they apparently did was pretend to be a small business, so as to get federal subsidies from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, of 72% of premiums. The Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management said, sure, you can do that. This is crazy, because:

  1. Congress is not a business. When they sell influence, they don’t usually put it on the books.
  2. Congress is not small. In order to be a small business, a business had to have fewer than 50 employees. In their paperwork, they attested that the Senate and the House each employs only 45 people2.
  3. The OPM doesn’t have any regulatory authority under the ACA. They’re not legally entitled to approve a scheme like this even if the scheme itself was legal. The OPM knew this—but changed their mind once President Obama intervened.
  4. The FEHBP isn’t legally allowed to subsidize premiums outside of the FEHBP.

If I were subsidized to the tune of 72% of premium costs, up to $12,000 a year, I’d probably choose a gold plan like congress does, and be okay with Obamacare just as they are.3 A 72% discount would bring Obamacare premiums back in line with what I was paying before the ACA made real health insurance illegal.

Think about that. Senator Chris Murphy knows that Obamacare is too expensive for people with even an above average income to afford. He knows that because he and his staff make above average incomes and can’t afford it. Instead of voting to fix that, he voted to keep it. And now complains that President Trump is going to “cut off” and “end” his health care… by making him follow the same laws he wants everybody else required to use Obamacare to follow.

In response to Why we must not ration health care: Rationing health care means fewer cures.

  1. He also seems to be trying to pad the narrative, and blame the already existing cratering of the exchanges on a Trump action that hasn’t happened yet: ending insurance company bailouts. But it’s even worse: the insurance company bailouts Trump is talking about ending really are bailouts: they were not part of the law and have been specifically forbidden by congress.

    Democrats claimed that the ACA would force economies of scale on insurance companies to reduce costs and improve service. There was no way it could do that, but they are making it even worse: by bailing out insurance companies when they fail to convince people to buy insurance, Democrats are guaranteeing poor service, higher costs, and administrative bloat.

  2. You might think that the FEHPB computers would recognize that, hey, their account says they only have 45 employees, yet I’m giving them far more than 45 subsidies!

    It’s not the FEHPB’s money. It’s your money. Why should they care if they’re giving away too much of it?

  3. Note: sarcasm. Obamacare is a mess no matter who pays for it. They very idea that we would need a 72% subsidy merely to bring health plan costs down to their pre-2014 levels would have been called partisan fearmongering before the ACA went into effect.

  1. <- Bureaucracies of scale
  2. Community health acts ->