By John F. Di Leo -
Part One of the House GOP’s official plan to repair/undo/fix/replace Obamacare was released this week, to utter shock and dismay. The authors say that everything America needs will be in the full packet, so it’s unfair to judge Part One without seeing the rest. That may be true, so here, let’s just look at the big picture, whether it’s one part, two parts, three or ten.
America had a healthcare financing problem a decade ago. Conservative solutions, such as malpractice/tort reform, extending the tax-deductibility that employer-provided health insurance gets to individual policies too, and closing the borders to reduce the massive healthcare drain by indigent illegal aliens, were never given a chance. Instead, the Democrats, on straight party votes and through illegal contortions of the lawmaking process, forced through a costly and destructive nationalization of healthcare financing.
As was predicted, it was an utter disaster. Few government programs have ever been so universally hated as Obamacare.
So today – with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, along with a Republican in the White House, American has an opportunity to undo it at last… to both undo the disaster that is Obamacare, and also implement the fixes that we knew were needed all along, but never got the chance to make before.
The Big Picture
But health insurance – and the healthcare financing process in general – is only part of the economic task faced by the new administration. It’s a big part of it, but it still exists within a bigger challenge;
We are trying to climb out of a ten year long recession. Economists don’t like to admit that, because the formal definition is two successive quarters of negative growth, and we’ve only suffered that here and there.
But in fact, when you consider job losses, inflation, general contraction of manufacturing, and the continued growth of the critical employment measure – people of working age outside the workforce” – it is undeniable; the economy has been rotten for a decade. It may not have been a recession to economists, but it’s been a recession to human beings.
For a decade now, the US economy generally produced around 200,000 jobs a month, most of them lousy.
By that, we mean that – unlike past eras of manufacturing growth and general expansion – in this period, too many of the new jobs are dead-end or near dead-end jobs. A starting job on an assembly line may pay poorly at first, but it may lead to a role as team lead, supervisor, manager, foreman, plant manager. A starting job at a coffee shop or retail counter, by comparison, may be a great, convenient part time job for a student, but has far less potential for career growth.
The problem with the Obama economy is that even the tepid number of jobs it did produce included too many of the latter type, and too few of the former.
We desperately need to make up for this ten year disaster.
Since healthcare financing was part of the problem before 2010 – and it became an incredibly bigger part of the problem after passage of Obamacare (the ACA) – fixing this particular mess is clearly a critical first step in delivering the economic boom that the market and the voters are all expecting, and in fact have already baked into their forecasts. We cannot let them down!
We need the U.S. economy to produce 20 million more jobs, including a couple million startups and millions of part time and full time independent consultants, during this presidential term.
… and we need most of the many American manufacturers who have moved production lines overseas during the past 20 years to finally start moving them back.
Somehow, the Obamacare repair/undo/fix/replace project (again, whether it’s one bill or a set of several) needs to do everything it can – and it can do much! – to advance these critical goals.
Has the Congressional leadership looked at it that way? Are they just focusing on reducing the obvious, direct pain of Obamacare as fast as possible? Or are they consciously working to use the Obamacare correction to undo the damage that both the Obamacare era and the pre-Obamacare era have done to our economy?
Job Creation and the Monkey-Wrench
Let's go back in time, and think about how health insurance costs affected decision making a decade ago, when we thought we had it so bad...
Ten years ago, let's say you wanted to start your own startup or independent consultancy.
Leaving a job that had insurance to branch out on one’s own, one had to plan on paying $50 to $100 a month for a single policy, or – for a breadwinner – a couple hundred a month for a family policy. Such plans are necessary, to cover basic healthcare needs if something big happened, and ensure decent pricing for normal things (rather than paying "rack rates").
Such affordable programs (somewhat high copay, somewhat high deductible, but basically fine for most people) are gone now. They're just GONE. Obamacare has thrown a monkey-wrench into the start-up society.
Thanks to Obamacare – and its laundry lists of mandated coverage, its worthlessly micromanaged exchanges and gold/silver/bronze plans of inflated coverage, that insists on paying for Ralphie to turn into Mabel, and funding abortions for 70 year old women and birth control for nuns – health insurance today is horribly, unbearably overpriced.
We’ve spent seven years rightly talking about what this does to the individual stuck with the plan… but we haven’t talked enough about what it does to the natural urge of the entrepreneurial – the small business minded American minority – to branch out on their own.
The Obamacare era’s outlandish pricing and awful product (in most cases, we pay more than ever for insurance that can’t even be used, because of the high deductibles and lack of providers) have scared Americans out of entrepreneurship.
Obamacare literally traps employed people in their current jobs. Starting up your own business takes considerable energy and courage to begin with; this massive corruption of the healthcare aspect of American life has added a massive weight to the already stiff burden of the American start-up.
People working for big companies, the very people who used to start their own businesses, are now unable to do so, because the insurance costs don't let them take that additional risk.
And what America needs most of all right now is an influx of new businesses, of courageous new entrepreneurs to rent offices and start inventing and selling and hiring… exactly as entrepreneurs always did in America, before the Obamacare era.
This is what has been forgotten in the recent debate… perhaps because, as usual, small businessmen aren’t heard the way that big businessmen are in our society, and perhaps because the future entrepreneur has no voice, only the past entrepreneur does.
Obamacare - as a whole, not just in the employer mandate, but AS A WHOLE - is utterly destructive to small business. Over the seven years since that hellish March 20 when it was illegally passed and signed, the number of startups has plummeted in Amerca.
We need to terminate Obamacare to get back what we had 8 years ago, to begin with.
It's a critical first step, not just for fixing healthcare, but for starting the economic boom we so desperately need. But then… we need the corrections - the simple, logical corrections - that we knew were needed at the time, but which the Democrats refused to allow us to do.
- Tort reform, to reduce the cost that malpractice insurance places on health care pricing.
- Use of the Commerce Clause to allow insurance companies to sell plans across state lines.
- Extend tax-deductibility of health insurance to individually-purchased plans, just as employer-provided insurance is.
- Crack down on crime, particularly the drug gang crime of the inner cities and the border jumping practice of tens of millions of illegal aliens, which fill our hospitals with costly patients who can’t pay for their coverage.
This is just a start. There’s more, of course, much more. And they’ve been on the Republican reformers’ drawing boards now for eight years, disallowed from seeing the light of day.
But they are necessary. Because a simple tweak of Obamacare to reduce the most egregious errors isn’t enough. Removing the mandate, dropping a couple of the taxes, but leaving the structure in place would only help a bit on the surface, while leaving the leviathan in place to keep on holding America back from the recovery we so desperately need.
There is a huge barricade in place, retarding the natural American impulse for job creation and economic advancement. And until that barricade is removed, our economy cannot recover.
Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland based Customs broker, transportation trainer, actor and writer. His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.
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