[Views expressed here are my own, and have not been endorsed by any political party, elected official, candidate for elected office, or any local, state or federal government agency]
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which just passed the Senate and the House and was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump earlier today, repeals the Affordable Care Act’s (widely known as Obamacare) individual mandate. The mandate dictates that people either purchase a health insurance plan or pay a tax penalty. As an American citizen, and a consumer in the greatest economy in the world, I support the repeal of the individual mandate.
Insurance is connected to risk aversion. If an individual is risk averse, he/she will buy insurance coverage to protect oneself or one’s assets against harm or loss. Depending on the degree of risk aversion, the person may buy higher levels of coverage. On the other hand, if the person is a risk-taker, he/she may forgo insurance, or perhaps buy minimal coverage. In most cases, the level of risk aversion is best determined by the consumer. In the absence of sufficient information to make an accurate assessment of risk, the consumer may choose to consult with an expert of his/her choice.
The above is especially true in the case of something as personal as health insurance. For federal government to dictate private citizens to purchase health insurance coverage from a designated set of options, or to pay a tax penalty should someone fail to comply with the mandate, is simply wrong in a country where free market and consumer choice are celebrated. In my opinion, it is in the best interest of an individual to have coverage against potential risks to one’s health and well-being. But, ultimately, each consumer decides what to do. In America, government should not force consumers to choose between mandatory health insurance coverage and tax penalty.
As the Democrats tried to market the Affordable Care Act to the people of America, promises were made that were then not fulfilled. For example, President Barack Obama told people: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” The statement, which President Obama repeated over and over again, was labeled by Politifact as 2013 “Lie of the Year” (Endnote 1). Because of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans received letters stating that their existing plans would be cancelled – a clear contradiction to what President Obama promised to the people.
Two of the largest failures of Obamacare policies are: rising premiums and limiting of health plan options. Since Obamacare’s implementation, we have witnessed rising (or perhaps the better word is “skyrocketing”) premiums. For example, an Alaskan whose monthly premium was $344 a month in 2013 was paying $1041 per month in 2017. Oklahoma has seen rising premiums of 130 percent over the last four years (Endnote 2). Premiums have been going through the roof nationwide, making health care coverage unaffordable. Major health insurers have also been leaving Obamacare exchange, after facing losses (Endnote 3). Such departure of insurance providers from the market leaves consumers with fewer and fewer options – something that people do not expect to see in a free market economy.
Helping ensure that those who wish to purchase health insurance coverage have the freedom to do so is different from forcing people to buy coverage or penalizing them for failure to comply. As Senator Orrin Hatch stated – according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 80 percent of households that pay the penalty (which could be up to $2,085) make less than $50,000 annually (Endnote 4). Obamacare’s individual mandate is not welcome in a free market economy.
People are best served at local and state level, where the government is close to the people, rather than bureaucrats housed in big buildings in Washington proposing one-size-fits-all policies. For an example of how Republican policies help people in need, especially when it comes to health insurance, look no further than Wisconsin. During the administration of Democrat Governor Jim Doyle, we saw promises of health insurance coverage being made to people, but then those promises were broken. BadgerCare, created in 1999, is the name of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program that provide coverage to people with low income, including children, pregnant women and parents. Doyle administration’s policies offered to provide health insurance coverage (a limited benefit plan called BadgerCare Plus Core Plan) to childless adults (individuals between ages of 19 and 64 who do not have dependent children living at home) at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL). But the government lacked the capacity to fulfill such a promise, and then placed a cap on enrollment, resulting in thousands of eligible individuals ending up in a wait-list. By December 2013, the number had soared to over 160,000 people on this wait-list. It was during Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration that the cap was lifted and new policies ensured that those who were in dire need of public assistance (people living at or below 100 percent FPL) would be able to enroll in BadgerCare without being on any form of wait-list (Endnote 5). This means that those who need coverage, and have financial struggles, are able to get health insurance. Our state’s conservative leaders and their thoughtfully-crafted policies have helped Wisconsinites, while massive laws and one-size-fits-all federal plans and policies created by the Obama administration and its bureaucrats have failed across the country.
As an American and a consumer of health care services, I believe that Obamacare – largely through rising premiums and diminishing health plan choices – has resulted in people losing confidence in their elected officials and their ability to address policy challenges. The Republicans’ efforts and the repeal of the individual mandate is a crucial step in restoring people’s confidence, freedom and choice.