Unintended Consequences of ObamaCare Keep Rolling In

The “pesky” law of unintended consequences strikes again. Do you remember when President Obama said “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”? Just as we expected, ObamaCare will not live up to its grand promises. According to a recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) report, one in eight small businesses have had or expect to have their health insurance plans terminated since the passage of ObamaCare in March 2010. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg since the 2,801-page health care takeover law will not be fully implemented until 2014.

The unintended consequences of ObamaCare keep rolling in. Insurance prices are skyrocketing, major health insurers have stopped offering child-only policies and we may soon be facing a huge doctor shortage. It comes as no big surprise that health care law will end up costing more than originally thought. A new report from Cornell economist Richard Burkhauser and his colleagues warns that ObamaCare could cost at least $50 billion more per year than previous Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

Government has an extensive history of under-calculating the long-term cost of legislation. For example, in 1967, House Ways and Means predicted that Medicare would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual spending in 1990 was $110 billion. Medicare now costs taxpayers over $314 billion annually. In the case of Medicare, the government estimate was off by over 816 percent. How wrong was the CBO on the cost of ObamaCare? I’d rather not find out. 

Many politicians seem to believe that they can repeal the laws of economics. As economist Thomas Sowell says, “the first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” Most government policies actually worsen the exact same problem they were supposedly trying to cure. As Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) states “free market economics teaches that for every government action to solve an economic problem, two new ones are created.” It’s a never-ending cycle of politicians passing bad laws to “fix” problems that were created by government in the first place.

While there are an abundance of problems associated with ObamaCare, perhaps the most troubling is the philosophical problem. Most politicians –and unfortunately many Americans—believe that health care is a right. This is a perversion of the idea of rights. As the Declaration of Independence states, Americans have the unalienable right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Note that none of these things require anything of anybody else.

Health care does require something from someone else. It either requires time from a doctor or nurse or money from someone to pay for such services. The government has no wealth of its own. Every dime that the government redistributes was first forcibly taken away from a taxpayer. Politicians like to consider themselves “compassionate” for supporting wealth redistribution plans such as ObamaCare. But spending other people’s money is not compassionate. As Austrian economist Murray Rothbard said, “it is easy to be conspicuously ‘compassionate’ if others are being forced to pay the cost.”

We are not entitled to health care. Economics professor Walter Williams writes that “true rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another… For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else’s rights, namely their rights to their earnings.” Where’s the compassion for taxpayers—who are forced to foot the bill?

Of course, most individuals who oppose ObamaCare are not “evil” as some supporters have claimed. We are not insensitive to the poor and needy. In fact, conservatives are more likely to donate to charities than liberals (no statistics found on libertarians). Arthur Brooks, author of the book Who Really Cares, says that “you find that people who believe it’s the government’s job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away.” Genuine compassion is when you reach into your own pockets to help out the less fortunate. Reaching into other people’s pockets and forcing them to pay for compulsory government programs is false philanthropy and should not be considered noble.

We must repeal ObamaCare and restore a free market in healthcare.  No matter how well-intentioned government legislation may be, it simply cannot repeal the law of scarcity. We can complain about the alleged unfairness of reality, but the fact is that medical care will always be a scarce good. Government meddling in the health care market will only lead to ugly unintended consequences. We instead should seek to get the government out of the way and let the free market function for once.

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