CAT fights among media outlets seldom are worth mention, but a dust-up last week between The Wall Street Journal's opinion page and the watchdog website PolitiFact over the new federal health insurance program is a rare exception.
As its â€œlie of the year,â€ PolitiFact crowned the phrase â€œa government takeover of health careâ€ â€” referring to rhetoric used by opponents of Obamacare to fight its passage in Congress. It got PolitiFact's big gong because nowhere in the legislation does it say the government will nationalize hospitals, impress the services of doctors or herd Americans into government-run insurance. In fact, the site said, the program is based on private insurance.
The Journal countered that Obamacare is a â€œvast expansionâ€ of federal control over health care. â€œThe regulations that PolitiFact waves off are designed to convert insurers into government contractors in the business of fulfilling political demands, with enormous implications for the future of U.S. medicine,â€ it said in an editorial. â€œAll citizens will be required to pay into this system, regardless of their individual needs or preferences. Sounds like a government takeover to us.â€
Cue the Department of Health and Human Services, which last week issued new premium guidelines under Obamacare, essentially telling private insurers that if they raise rates 10 percent or more next year, they'll face increased regulatory scrutiny. The rules stop just short of giving the feds the power to block premium increases â€” but just short.
Here's the deal: If Obamacare isn't technically a nationalization of the U.S. health care, you can see it from here.
Premium guidelines issued by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius empower the government to decide which increases are â€œunreasonableâ€ and subject to scrutiny, even as Obamacare's mandates boost costs. Ten percent appears to be the threshold.
It's not hard to imagine a scenario, unfolding over a period of years, where insurers get squeezed â€” pressured on one side by spiraling health care costs and on the other by the government â€” to a point where private insurance starts disappearing. Washington will be left as the only available insurer. Then, can a government-run health care system be far behind?
Indeed, although Obamacare was sold as a medical cost-cutter and money saver, it already is proving otherwise as insurers and employers reckon its mandates for increased coverage and adjust costs, fees and premiums higher.
Though the folks at PolitiFact and elsewhere don't acknowledge it, Obamacare is planting the seeds for PolitiFact's â€œlieâ€ â€” a future in which the private health insurance market dies under the weight of rising costs and the industry's inability to remain profitable because of price controls.