Okay, let's play today's version of "Are you smarter about economics than a 5th grader?"
Question: If you increase the demand for a particular item or service, will the price go up or down?
If you answered anything but "up," you are not smarter about economics than a 5th grader... and you might also be working for the Obama administration, Congress, or a liberal think tank. And if you got the question right, your smarts still aren't going to help you when you get stuck with higher health insurance costs, longer waits at the doctor's office, or both.
The news came out inconspicuously over the July 4th weekend that health insurance companies are seeking rate increases of 20%-40% or more because of increased costs due to the Affordable Care Act. In short, the insurers say the people who now have insurance because of Obamacare turned out to be sicker and more costly to cover than they anticipated. I don't know why it's surprising to anyone that mandatory insurance coverage would lead to more sick people using that insurance than healthy people, but that's the official excuse. The politicians are already promising to get the insurers to scale back their demands, but increases are coming and they will be steeper than an average year.
Well, so much for the, "The ACA is bending the cost curve!" claim we've been hearing from the White House and too many others for a few years now. As any 5th grade economic student could have told them and us: increased demand means increased cost, period.
But it's worse, much worse. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb explained on Squawk Box this morning, Obamacare's costs are fueling the already too small number of health insurers to merge. And these mergers aren't so much about increasing profits as they're about insulating themselves against the new costs. But by consolidating the market, the health insurers will have a much easier time raising prices in the future whether they need to or not.
But if you think these developments are teaching universal coverage advocates and socialists an important lesson, think again. Many Obamacare supporters are using these cost increases to either publicly or privately say that this will help achieve what they really wanted all along: single payer government healthcare. And that brings us back to our "Smarter than a 5th grader" question about whether increasing access to and demand for a product or service will lower or increase costs. Because while single payer might change the sticker price on health care to as low as zero, the realcosts of providing care will only go up unless access is somehow regulated, controlled, and rationed. And all of those things only slow the inevitable rise in real costs anyway.
No matter how much socialism or socialist-lite programs fail, socialists almost always respond that the failure was because the program just wasn't socialist enough. It's as insane as the fact that the people who made a number of justified complaints about private health care insurance actually came out with a "solution" that called for more insurance. And that's what we're seeing already as the undeniable truth is that the ACA is simply failing and not delivering on its promises to most Americans.
I guess supporting Obamacare means never having to say you're sorry.