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Promises, promises, promises

President Obama is set to speak before Congress and the nation Wednesday evening about his plans for universal health care in this country.   So far, three promises seem to stand out among the rest as the linchpins upon which his plan is based.  Should he mention any of them in his national speech, here is an analysis of each based upon what has already been tried.

[This post was originally released Sept. 3]

I will use the state of Maine for this discussion, although I could just as easily use Massachusetts or Tennessee.  All three have tried Obamacare, and, all three attempts have failed abysmally.

Promise # 1: our plan will provide insurance for all.

That is exactly what Maine thought when it passed its version of Obamacare in 2003.  DirigoChoice, Maine’s “public option” was supposed to provide insurance for Maines’s then 128,000 uninsureds.  The state would subsidize the cost, “at no cost to the taxpayer” (more about this in Promise # 3), and, voila, the uninsured would be insured.  What happened is entirely different.  Most of those who joined DirigoChoice were already insured, and they dropped their private plan to go with the cheaper subsidized public plan.  Most of those people were the people who were the sickest, and, thus, those who required the most medical care.  Now, some 5 years into the program,

the number of uninsured in the state today is only slightly lower that in 2004 when the program began.

Why?  People who need a great deal of medical care cost money.  To keep up with that cost Maine had to raise premiums for the public option to the point where even with subsidies, the uninsured couldn’t afford it.

Promise #2:  our plan will make sure that those with pre-existing conditions will be guaranteed insurance, and the “public option” will provide competition, thus, reducing premiums for all.

That didn’t work either.  Maine requires that anyone who applies for private insurance must be accepted regardless of their medical condition (i.e. guaranteed issue), and, the premiums charged to them must be the same as the premiums charged to healthy applicants (i.e. community rating).  This concept is a key provision of both the House and Senate version of Obamacare.  So, why didn’t it work?  Insuring people who need costly medical care, believe it or not, costs money.  To cover those costs, premiums had to be raised for all…74% in 5 years.  Maine is now at the point where,

a healthy male in Maine who is 30 and single pays a monthly premium of $762 in the individual market; next door in New Hampshire he pays $222 a month. The Granite State doesn’t have community rating and guaranteed issue. [emphasis supplied]

Promise #3: and, we will pay for this by eliminating waste, etc., at no cost to the taxpayer.

Well, that didn’t work either.

The system that was supposed to save money has cost taxpayers $155 million and is still rising.

To solve this financial shortfall, Maine has had to impose new taxes.

Should you hear any of the above “promises” repeated Wednesday night, you will know that they are not promises, only “urban legends”.  You simply can’t insure all without raising premiums for all, and raising taxes for all.   No matter how sincere the President sounds, these promises are doomed to fail.

One final note…curiously, one of the Republicans that the Democrats are wooing to support Obamacare is Senator Olympia Snowe from, you guessed it, Maine.  One wonders if she has spent any time in her home state for the past 5 years.