Thanks to an intense grassroots effort on the part of an organization called “Enroll America,” North Carolinians are being asked to sign up for new health insurance plans as part of federal exchanges established by President Obama’s signature law. What Enroll America’s flyers and social media advertisements fail to mention is the number of special interests – including some of the president’s closest allies – that don’t need to sign up for this law because they’re exempt.
Members of Congress and their staff get a sweetheart deal. The hoi polloi restaurant owners in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco congressional district are exempt. And the entire state of Massachusetts is exempt, as well. Then there are the big labor unions, who loved Obamacare until they realized it meant the death of the 40-hour work week. They, too, have been seeking an exemption.
These obviously aren’t the type of folks who typically oppose President Obama’s agenda; in fact, they are the very people you’d expect to support the law. So the question is, why are so many former Obamacare supporters getting these special exemptions, when you and I are required to abide by the law – or pay a fine?
Even the New York Times – not exactly a tea party mouthpiece – admitted that “many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers.” Soon many people will learn that their family doctor or local hospital isn’t included in their insurer’s new health care plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that many health insurers are planning to decrease the network of health care providers available to their customers because of the law’s cost-increasing effects.
But didn’t the president and his congressional allies promise we would be able to keep our doctors?
If you’re not directly impacted by your health insurer’s new plans, you will be impacted when your employer decides that health insurance is too costly and tosses everybody to the mercy of the federally run exchange. The president’s cheerleaders must have been shocked senseless when the supposedly progressive, employee-friendly Trader Joe’s – with nine stores in North Carolina – announced it would be cutting employee health care benefits. And Trader Joe’s is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 300 companies have dropped health care coverage, fired employees or reduced employee hours in order to avoid providing employer-sponsored health care coverage.
Not surprisingly, the loss of choice in health care options is not resulting in lower costs for most families and businesses. In fact, many Americans will likely begin seeing skyrocketing premiums for reduced quality and fewer options. The average health care consumer can expect to pay 31.5 percent in higher health-insurance premiums, according to the Society of Actuaries. In North Carolina, individual health insurance premiums will spike as much as 80 percent on average. Rising health care costs will only add to the challenges faced by many families and businesses, who are slowly rebuilding after weathering the drawn-out economic downturn.
Many members of Congress continue to assure American taxpayers that Obamacare is good medicine and that it will make health care more affordable – after all, it’s the “Affordable” Care Act, right? But we all know actions speak louder than carefully spun speeches. President Obama once warned that health care could one day cost Americans one dollar for every five they earned. Unfortunately, he was right. And his health care plan is leading us in that direction.
Giving special exemptions to your friends so they can avoid what one former senator (and Obamacare backer) famously described as a looming “train-wreck” is wrong. If it’s OK for members of Congress to get an exclusive sweetheart deal, isn’t it only fair for the rest of us to get an exemption, too?
Maybe that’s the most reasonable and fair way to end the controversy over Obamacare. Let’s give every American a personal exemption and grant those who really want government-run health care the option of opting in.
Chris Marie Farr is the interim state director for Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina chapter. Information on the group can be found at AFPNC.org.