Kneale: 7 Prickly Questions for ObamaCare

OK, so it passed. President Obama just rammed through his trillion-dollar gut renovation of U.S. health care. He takes a giddy leap toward government nationalization and one of the biggest redistributions of wealth in U.S. history.

Cost of healthcare
Lilli Day | Photodisc | Getty Images
Cost of healthcare

All without one single vote of bipartisanship—what a Change!

Now what? The financial toll already has begun to pile up, and the social and psychological implications will begin to unfold soon. Here are six provocative questions on what we have wrought. The wrong answers could crush our recovery and add hundreds of billions to the cost of this medical Moby Dick.

Question 1: Will ObamaCare end up covering 50 percent more uninsured?

We used to hear, constantly, about 45 million uninsured people. ObamaCare will insure 32 million of ’em. Those left uncovered are, for the most part, illegal aliens, and the President wants to grant them the status of legal residents. Would that qualify them for ObamaCare and swell the ranks by half—and thereby increase costs by another half a trillion dollars?

So far, the White House hasn’t provided a clear answer on this point.

Question 2: Does ObamaCare’s price tag include corporate writedowns?

We’re told this medical miracle will cost us $938 billion over 10 years. I doubt that sum includes the toll taken this week. AT&T today said it will take a $1 billion charge related to ObamaCare.

Earlier this week, Caterpillar drew first blood (its own), taking a $100 million writedown. The heavy-metal giant provides generous drug benefits to retirees, enticed by tax-free subsidies from the feds; that program now will be taxed. Deere says it will take a $150 million hit, and AK Steel , $31 million.

Betchya other big companies take hits, too. That hurts their shareholders (including pension funds for workers that ObamaCare seeks to help). It may prompt companies to cut back on drug benefits for retirees, all due to a new law with the opposite aim.

Question 3: Will ObamaCare not cover medical treatments for moral reasons?

ObamaCare passed the House by only seven votes, of 431 votes cast. To buy the votes of eight anti-abortion Democrats, the Dems ditched any pretense of being the “pro-choice” party and blocked all funding for abortion in ObamaCare.

Now that we’re rationing care on moral grounds, no need to stop at abortion. Let’s ban liver transplants for alcoholics (they made their bed). And refuse to cover stomach-stapling surgery for the massively and morbidly obese (where’s their will power?). And welch on paying for any treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Oh, and when a drunk driver is maimed horribly in a car accident, let him (or her) pay out of pocket.

Question 4: Will the millionaire tax really have no bad impact at all?

One study says ObamaCare will cost, from the get-go, an extra $46,000 in taxes for a person who earns $1 million a year. No big deal, right? Wrong! That one million bucks is actually $500,000 after-tax; $46k is almost a 10% surcharge. And that means that million-dollar guy or gal will spend $46,000 less on other items that lead to more jobs: cars, private planes, fat-cat pleasure boats, jet skis, vacations, home renovations.

Question 5: Why does ObamaCare subsidize families earning $88,000 a year?

One main aim of this paternalistic program is to insure the poorest Americans. Ninety large ain’t poor. One explanation is that some middle-class Americans’ insurance costs will go up, at first, under ObamaCare, so we need subsidies to offset that pain. Um ... sorry to be picky here, but I thought this facelift was supposed to bring costs down.

Question 6: Will millions drop their insurance coverage because of ObamaCare?

We could be looking at a surge in creative ways to game this loopy new system. Say you’re a freelancer who pays $10,000, out of pocket, for insurance. Now that no insurer can turn you down for a “pre-existing condition,” you can drop your own policy and go bare. Pay the feds’ new penalty fee of, what, $695 a year? Then, after you are diagnosed with lung cancer or after you get hit by a city bus, go ahead and buy insurance again. If you never get sick, you reap a going-bare windfall of $9,000-plus a year.

Now say you’re an employer who insures your workers, at a cost of $10,000 a year per minion. Why not just cut ’em loose to buy insurance on their own? (Or they can go bare and surf the pre-existing-condition wave, see preceding paragraph. Pay the new federal penalty of $3,000 a year, per person. Voila! A $7,000-a-year savings, per head.

Question 7: Will ObamaCare infantilize freeloaders pushing age 30?

This plan forces insurers to let “children” up to age 26 stay under the umbrella of their parents’ plan (sorry for metaphor, Travelers ). Hey kids, like, why move out at all? Like, ever?

President Obama is especially magnanimous when it comes to filching money from “the rich” to fund entitlements for those who pay almost nothing at all. It will be alternately fascinating and painful to watch the side-effects spill over our country in coming months, only to learn that we couldn’t afford it, after all.

So that ends my column, guys. Your comments welcome, post them below. And to obviate the first few posts, let’s just go ahead and stipulate for the record: I look like Beaker, I’m a shill for Wall Street, I’m incredibly stupid, my forehead is the size of a billboard and CNBC should have fired me long ago. There! Feel better?

Now weigh in with your wisdom rather than your vitriol ...

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