Rate and Pillage

By Bill Maher

Let's talk about Obamacare a bit, and I promise this won't be full of arcane insurance jargon, mainly because I don't know any arcane insurance jargon.

People basically have two questions about Obamacare: When are they coming to kill me, and how much is it going to cost?

We were always told that the CBO did a thorough analysis and determined it would save us money. And maybe it will. But I'm worried that in all their number crunching, the one variable they left out was the "greed factor." They can estimate how many people are going to be sick, they can estimate how much costs are going to increase, but they can't estimate how much of a dick insurance companies are willing to be.  

And now we're getting some clues that the greed factor is maybe higher than we thought. The New York Times recently had an article citing a number of states where premiums are going up 20 percent or more. 

In California, Aetna wants a 22% raise; Anthem Blue Cross, 26%; and Blue Shield, 20%.

Meanwhile new car prices only went up about one percent last year. So I guess the lesson here is, let Toyota run healthcare. Or maybe Apple. The newest iPhone is always the same price or cheaper than the previous iPhone; why can't getting gall bladder surgery be the same?

There are several reasons why premiums are going up: We have an aging population, there's a shortage of doctors and, of course, Paula Deen.  

It doesn't seem like we can directly blame Obamacare for the increases; it's more the result of the law not having enough teeth. Like people in Kentucky without dental coverage.

First of all, Obamacare can't stop insurance companies from raising rates. Some states can, though, which means rates could start varying widely from state to state.

Secondly, Obamacare makes insurance companies give rebates back to customers if they spend too much on administrative costs. But they raise rates anyway because, according to the Times piece, "they may be less afraid of having to refund some of the money than risk losing money."

We're going to end up with some states having really good insurance, and other states, mainly in the South, with nothing. If you're lucky, a guy will come to your house with some leeches. Need a kidney? You'll have to take out an ad on Craigslist. "Wanted: one kidney, can trade a set of snow tires."   

And even when Obamacare is fully implemented, something like 26 million Americans still won't have health insurance. But they'll be free to rummage around in the dumpster behind a local medical clinic.