Obamacare’s War on Civil Society: It Is Big Government or Nothing

Washington offers many opportunities for schadenfreude, that wonderful German word which means to enjoy the misery of others.  The realization of liberal professionals who voted for Barack Obama that they will be forced to spend more on health insurance was one of those moments. 

Reported the New York Times: “Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan.  But now, to their surprise, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.”

It’s not that they didn’t have policies that they liked and wanted to keep.  It seems that the policies were too good. 

Explained the Times:  “The rationale for disqualifying those policies, said Larry Levitt, a health expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was to prevent associations from selling insurance to healthy members who are needed to keep the new health exchanges financially viable.”  Unfortunately for these privileged Obama supporters, most make too much money for even the generous subsidies available under the exchanges.

As I point out in the American Spectator online:

Admittedly, it takes a few moments to stop laughing after reading this article.  If you believe in social justice and all that, you shouldn’t whine about the government running up your costs to fulfill its elaborate social engineering plan.  After all, that’s the purpose of liberal government—create Rube Goldberg policy contraptions that promote some higher good.  So what if you get run over in the process?  Eggs and omelets as the old Communists liked to say.

Still, it is striking how government is destroying civil society institutions which meet real human needs.  Even stranger is the possible federal attack on charities and hospitals which are paying the premiums for low-income patients. 

For instance, the Los Angeles nonprofit A Better LA has begun to subsidize health insurance for low-income people through the California state exchange.  Some hospitals are doing the same.  Melinda Hatton of the American Hospital Association told the Journal:  “We thought it was the kind of thing the Affordable Care Act would really support and encourage.”

Well, no.

Insurers are counting on covering well-off, and presumably healthier, professionals, not less well-off, and presumably less healthy, nonprofessionals.  Reported the Journal:  “Help from nonprofits or hospitals could speed the arrival of less healthy customers into the exchanges, outpacing the arrival of younger, healthier people.”

The administration has yet to state a clear position.  But Health and Human Services has indicated its “concerns with this practice, because it could skew the insurance risk pool.” 

Government is threatening civil society institutions, ranging from charitable to business, which are aiding the poor, disadvantaged, and uninsured!  True, the aid process is disorganized, decentralized, uncertain, and uneven.  But that is society. 

This complex interplay is what makes community.  Discerning and addressing needs, organizing diverse approaches, and responding to the people in front of you is what genuine compassion, which once meant “suffering with,” is all about.  David Beito has detailed the once important role of mutual aid societies, and how they were replaced by “impersonal bureaucracies controlled by outsiders,” such as Obamacare health exchanges.

Ultimately, Barack Obama and his allies have the world backwards.  They believe that government trumps society, and the solution to any problem should start in Washington.  Individual choice and community relations are unimportant.

Professional associations and charities demonstrate that society should be the starting point.  People should be not just allowed but encouraged to organize to solve problems.  Not only are individual lives bettered, but the sinews of community are strengthened.  Instead of supplanting other institutions, government should act as the ultimate backstop to help meet social needs which are not otherwise addressed. 

As my colleague David Boaz observed, Obamacare is “another example of a big-government, left-liberal policy that is pushing people away from cooperation and community and toward atomistic individualism.”  It’s quite an accomplishment.  Who says President Obama is a failure!?