Schadenfreude on the Charles

Many conservatives are chuckling over this New York Times story about the impact Obamacare is having on Harvard’s health care plan: “Health Care Fixes Backed by Harvard’s Experts Now Roil Its Faculty.” Heh. It was easier to promote Obamacare when they thought it was only going to apply to others:

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

Chickens. Roost.

In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.

In other words, Harvard is like every other employer. If government imposes mandated coverages and, in effect, makes it illegal to sell cheap insurance, guess what: health insurance will get more expensive. The odd thing is that there apparently were a lot of Harvard professors who didn’t understand this until they got the bill.

This is just funny. For your enjoyment:

Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”

Right. Welcome to the world, Professor.

Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut.

Well, yes. What was her first clue? For quite a few years, labor costs have been increasing while wages have stagnated, because more compensation dollars have been funneled into rising health insurance costs. This is indeed a pay cut: there is, as someone once said, no free lunch.

The president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, acknowledged in a letter to the faculty that the changes in health benefits — though based on recommendations from some of the university’s own health policy experts — were “causing distress” and had “generated anxiety” on campus. But she said the changes were necessary because Harvard’s health benefit costs were growing faster than operating revenues or staff salaries and were threatening the budget for other priorities like teaching, research and student aid.

Pretty much every company in America is dealing with that problem. Trouble is, Obamacare makes health insurance more expensive rather than cheaper. That was the idea.

Meredith B. Rosenthal, a professor of health economics and policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, said she was puzzled by the outcry. “The changes in Harvard faculty benefits are parallel to changes that all Americans are seeing,” she said. “Indeed, they have come to our front door much later than to others.”

Yes. That is because Harvard has more money than God.

Harvard’s new plan is far more generous than plans sold on public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Harvard says its plan pays 91 percent of the cost of care for a typical consumer, while the most popular plans on the exchanges, known as silver plans, pay 70 percent, on average.

Nevertheless, the professors are up in arms. Imagine if they had to make do with the plans that most Americans live with under Obamacare!

The Times story notes that Harvard has an endowment of more than $36 billion:

“It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people,” said Mary C. Waters, a professor of sociology. “I don’t understand why a university with Harvard’s incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?”

But most businesses don’t have $36 billion in the bank. They are struggling to stay alive, and they can’t afford to gratuitously assume more financial burdens. They have no choice but to pass some of Obamacare’s increased costs on to their employees, or else stop providing group health coverage altogether–the result that left-wing Obamacare advocates, some of whom are on the Harvard faculty, hope for and expect, but can’t publicly advocate. When the employer mandate finally hits in 2015, the carnage will be palpable. More than half of all employer plans, the Obama administration has calculated, will either be canceled or made more expensive because they do not comply with Obamacare’s lavish and often irrational mandates. (Single guy? We don’t care. You MUST pay for maternity coverage!)

So now Harvard’s professors, pretty much all of whom voted for Obama and supported Obamacare, are learning the hard way, from experience, what they apparently were not able to learn by analysis. Lots of conservatives enjoy this, because they don’t like Harvard. I am not in that category. I got my law degree from Harvard, and, while Harvard is no Dartmouth, I liked the law school about as much as anyone likes any law school. But the current controversy illustrates an all too common phenomenon. Liberals are great at telling other people what to do, but it rarely occurs to them that someday, they might have to live under the rules that they advocate for the rest of us.