As folks around you discuss the merits of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare’s real alias) two weeks ago, take a moment to step aside from the token political arguments.
You have heard that Obamacare is now a tax to be levied on the middle class. You have heard that Obamacare is going to lower insurance premiums for the middle class. You may also have heard that Obamacare is going to summon the apocalypse (the silver lining being that it will provide health coverage for zombies). Perhaps all of these arguments have merit; perhaps none of them do.
The real underlying issue with Obamacare is that it is an expansion in an area in the budget that is already completely unsustainable: entitlement programs. Entitlement programs are generally understood to mean Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — though they also include veteran’s benefits, unemployment insurance and generally any government program that guarantees benefits to specific segments of the population. We can now add Obamacare to the list.
“If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else. And if you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit that helps pay for it,” Obama said the day the Supreme Court decision was announced.
If you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit. So, the question is, who will pay for it? In that way, Obamacare is much more like an entitlement or welfare program than a tax. Yet, no one seems to be articulating this argument. Rather, those opposed to Obamacare are concentrating on labeling the program as a tax.
The penalty, or tax, comes into play only for those people who do not have insurance and who are not exempted somehow. According to the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, over 33 million uninsured people will be able to get coverage they can’t afford, 16.3 million through government subsidies and 17 million through an expanded Medicaid program. That doesn’t leave very many people that will pay the tax, aside from those who might find it more financially viable to do so (small business owners, wealthier Americans). So, if we’re to be intellectually honest, marketing Obamacare as a tax on the middle class is either ignorant, manipulative or both.
Entitlement programs have been eyed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, at least behind closed doors, as the real place deficit and debt reduction can be accomplished.
“Medicare and Medicaid are the single biggest drivers of the federal deficit and the federal debt by a huge margin,” Obama said in 2009.
What’s a president to do about the biggest drivers of the deficit and debt? Drive them further into the red, apparently. Obamacare is set to expand Medicaid and launch a new entitlement program.
Over half of our federal budget goes to some form of an entitlement program. Of course, you can discuss the merits of each program individually, but the numbers still remain. As a country, we have over $15 trillion in debt. Donkey or elephant, we have to find a way to reduce that.
With Obamacare being hurled back into the conversation, we should look at it for the true problem it creates: an increase in an already maxed out expenditure. It is through the welfare/entitlement program lens that we should view Obamacare through rather than a lame “tax hike” scare. The truth is scary enough.