A Famous Victory For Obamacare?

The administration announced today that 7.1 million people have signed up for health insurance on the various federal and state exchanges. President Obama took a victory lap in the Rose Garden, announcing among other things that Obamacare is now safe from repeal. The Democratic Party sent out an email that began:

President Obama just announced the news:

The Affordable Care Act CRUSHED its first major enrollment deadline! As of yesterday, 7.1 million Americans are now signed up for affordable, quality private health insurance through the law!!!

It wasn’t easy. President Obama’s faced unprecedented obstruction from Republicans. But he kept on fighting to make this historic day a possibility.

This strikes me as utterly bizarre. My opposition to Obamacare was never based on the idea that no one would buy insurance on the exchanges. To my knowledge, that was not the focus of anyone’s criticism of the statute, either before or after its enactment. After all, the law makes it a legal requirement that virtually everyone buy health insurance; if you don’t otherwise have it, you are required to buy an Obamacare policy. Pre-enactment, the Democrats never tired of telling us that there were 47 million uninsured Americans. Now, with a legal requirement to sign up, a lousy 7 million have registered on the exchanges? Americans evidently are not as law-abiding as I thought.

And, of course, Obamacare has already driven an estimated 5 to 6 million people out of insurance policies they previously owned. This is consistent with survey data that suggest that more than 80% of those who have bought Obamacare policies were previously insured. So it remains to be seen whether there is any net gain in insured individuals–the entire point of Obamacare–at all.

And what we have seen so far is only the beginning. In early 2015, millions more Americans will be driven out of employer-sponsored group coverage by Obamacare, and presumably many or most of them will buy individual policies on the exchanges. Will Obama claim another great victory when that wave of sign-ups arrives?

Then there are the higher prices and worse coverage that most people are finding on the exchanges, compared to what they had before the Affordable Care Act–ha!–was passed. And just wait ’til next year, when the lousy demographics of the current crop of enrollees drive premiums through the roof.

Personally, though, I think Obamacare’s worst fault is its unfairness. In my opinion, it is immoral to force people to buy coverages that they can’t use, don’t want, and can’t afford. It is also grossly unfair to force some people to pay excessive prices for health insurance, or any other service, in order to subsidize their neighbors. Obamacare, at its heart, is not just ill-conceived or inefficient; it is unfair. No one should celebrate driving millions of people into an unjust, lousy system.

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