Color me shocked: Michigan GOP State Senator spewing nonsense.
2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)
Time: D H M S
I live in Michigan, but I've never heard of Patrick Colbeck. All I know about him is that he wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Detroit News on Friday which has more factual holes than the swiss cheese I put on my turkey sandwich last week:
Obamacare’s days are numbered. Either the Supreme Court will strike it down via rulings on cases like King v. Burwell, it will be repealed in 2017, or it will implode on itself taking the health of many of our citizens with it.
Actually, assuming his first possibility (King v. Burwell) strikes out, the ACA is doing pretty darned well at the moment, with policy satisfaction ratings equal to or higher than the non-ACA market, approval of the ACA finally edging out opposition, 63% either wanting to keep the law as is or at least wanting to give it time to see how it goes and the uninsured rate having plummeted to under 12%.
The annual price tag for Obamacare is $1.35 trillion, all to insure an additional 19 million citizens while still leaving 36 million people without health insurance. That works out to $71,052/additional enrollee/year. Against this backdrop, a high quality individual health plan could be purchased on the open market for less than $6,000/year.
- "$1.35T/year": Actually, the CBO estimates that the ACA will cost appx. $1.2 trillion OVER TEN YEARS, or around $121 billion per year. So, Sen. Colbeck was only off by 90%. No biggie.
(As an aside, here's a handy tip: Any time someone claims that anything costs more than $1 Trillion per year, that's kind of a big red flag that perhaps their math should be double-checked. The entire U.S. Federal Budget is $3.9 Trillion, and huge chunks of that are already covered by stuff like Medicare, (traditional) Medicaid, the Military, Interest on the Federal Debt, Social Security, Unemployment and so forth. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room to shoehorn in something which would eat up 35% of the entire budget. Just saying.)
- "an additional 19M citizens": This is actually kind of interesting, since Sen. Colbeck's number is actually higher than either my own estimate (14-15 million to date) or even the HHS Dept's (16.4 million). However, if he wants to insist that the net number of extra people insured thanks to the ACA is 19 million, who am I to argue with him? 19M it is!
- "leaving 36M w/out insurance": Well, perhaps, although a good 4 million of that 36M is due to half the states refusing to participate in the Medicaid expansion provision of the law, and another 6.3 million or so are undocumented immigrants who aren't legally allowed to participate in ACA coverage (either via the exchanges or Medicaid/CHIP) anyway, so, you know, there's that. I guess Sen. Colbeck wants "illegals" to receive free/subsidized healthcare? Good for him!! Somehow I don't think that's what he had in mind, however.
- "$71,052/year": As noted above, and as Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted a month ago, it's actually more like $5,000 per person per year. Colbeck overstates the per-enrollee cost by 14x. Granted, this isn't quite as bad as U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions' "Eleventy Bazillion!!!" idiocy on the House floor in March (Sessions seemed to think the ACA cost $5 million per enrollee), but being off by a factor of 14x is still pretty bad.
- "...less than $6K/year": Hmmm...Sen. Colbeck thinks you can get a decent healthcare policy on the "open market" for just 20% more than a comparable ACA-purchased policy (at full price). He may be correct about this, but it's not exactly something to brag about, especially when repealing the ACA would mean the insurance companies would be able to start denying you coverage for having a pre-existing condition or simply kicking you off your plan the moment you actually need their help (rescission).
It defies logic to assert that the addition of 159 organizations between a patient and a doctor would lower the cost of care. It defines logic to assert that the insertion of bureaucrats between a doctor and patient would actually improve the quality of care. These new organizations and bureaucrats do come in handy if your goal is control, not care. Why do you think the IRS was designated as the enforcement arm for Obamacare?
- "159 organizations between you/your doctor": What are these mysterious "159 organizations"? Colbeck never says, nor does he link to anything that states what they might be. A Google search brings up this article over at the right-wing National Review which does make a reference to "159 new boards, agencies, and programs: The Obama administration will work quickly to set up as many of the law’s new bureaucracies as fast as it can so they can take root before the election."
Those "159 new boards, agencies & programs" appear to be listed here. I'm not going to check to see if all 159 are legitimate, but even if they are, there's no way that more than a handful of these would apply to any specific person. I hardly think that the "Office of Indian Men's Health" (#150) would have anything to do with me, a Sephardic Jew, for example.
- "enforcement arm for Obamacare": The IRS is just as much an "enforcement arm" for the Affordable Care Act as it is for any other part of the U.S. federal tax code. For that matter, they can't really do a whole lot about "enforcing" the law anyway:
The ACA bars the IRS from bringing a criminal enforcement case against someone who refuses to pay the non-insurance penalty. And it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for it to enforce a tax lien. Law professors Jordan Barry and Bryan Camp have a nice piece in Tax Notes explaining it all.
That leaves only one tool—the IRS can subtract the penalty from any refund it owes a taxpayer. But that applies only if the IRS happens to owe somebody a refund. These days, two-thirds of taxpayers get one, but it is usually their choice.
Colbeck's rambles for awhile with all sorts of Ayn Randian "free market" gibberish. He then makes another completely unsourced claim:
The state of Washington launched a pilot program of 1,000 enrollees and realized cost reductions of more than 50 percent, while also reducing hospitalization rates 50 percent. They have since expanded the program to 50,000 enrollees.
What is this magical plan out of Washington State? He doesn't say. He doesn't give the name or cite a source. If it really did manage to cut costs and hospitalization rates by 50% while simultaneously providing healthcare quality results equal to or better than the current system, you'd think he'd let everyone in on the big secret, bold-facing and linking to the program in all capital letters, wouldn't you?
Perhaps such a program exists. I think he may be referring to the State Health Care Innovation Plan (SHCIP), which iinvolves shifting payment models from "per service" based to "outcome" based via "Accountable Care Organizations", but perhaps not, and even if he is, I don't see that the SHCIP program has anything whatsoever to do with his suspiciously simple "50% / 50%" claims, nor does that program in any way run counter to other provisions of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, if I'm reading this correctly, it looks like the SHCIP program is funded BY the ACA in the first place.
Finally, he wraps things up with this, which pretty well encapsulates the entire conservative mindset when it comes to basic decency and humanity:
Michigan spends more than $14 billion each year on coverage for 2.3 million of our 10 million citizens. A 50 percent reduction in Medicaid expenses could reduce the tax burden on the remaining 7.7 million citizens by as much as $7 billion. Since 40 percent of this figure comes in the form of state contributions, we have the opportunity to free up as much as $2.8 billion for other priorities such as roads or that elusive objective of tax relief.
Shorter version of the above:
"Screwing over 2.3 million dirt poor people even further would pad the wallets of 7.7 million middle class/rich people!! Woo-hoo!!"
Well gee, Sen. Colbeck, why stop there? A 100% reduction in Medicaid expenses would "reduce the tax burden" on those other 7.7 million by $14 billion! That would "free up" $5.6 billion for "other priorities".
Granted, you'd have to spend some amount of that on digging graves for all those dead poor people, but that's a small price to pay for "that elusive object of tax relief". As for road repair, I suppose that "reducing the surplus population" by 2.3 million poor people would also reduce the congestion on the roads by 23%, so that should help lengthen the life of our roadways.
Better yet, we could just grind up their bodies and mix them in with the asphalt to cut costs further.