When Mitt Romney went before the convention of the NAACP and said that as president he would repeal “Obamacare”, he was roundly and predictably booed. In doing so, he stepped into a carefully prepared trap.
Why is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act routinely referred to as “Obamacare”? Surely no one seriously believes President Obama wrote the 2,700 page bill or, for that matter, even knows what is in it. Yet the act is commonly labeled President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the crowning achievement of his first term.
Even Nancy Pelosi would not take credit for authoring the bill, famously declaring we had to pass it in order to find out what’s in it. So if the president didn’t write the Affordable Care Act and the Speaker of the House didn’t know what was in it, why is it called Obamacare?
One could make the argument that it’s just laziness on the part of the media, which revels in finding the lowest common denominator to explain complex issues. One could argue that it is political posturing by Republicans who want to saddle the president with responsibility for what is undeniably an unpopular law. One could argue it is the president himself, trying to take legislative credit for something he had nothing to do with, popular or not. In fact Obama, a supporter of a single payer system, actively campaigned against many of the provisions that have ended up as cornerstones of the ACA law.
One could make a lot of arguments, but calling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” is a huge tactical error. Why? Because naming the law after Obama personalizes it and, as Romney learned from the NAACP audience, opposing Obamacare equals opposing Obama and the only reason anyone opposes Obama is, of course, because he is black. To those inclined to think as such, opposing the complete government takeover of the healthcare system and changing the status of Americans from private citizens to property of the state is, quite simply, racist. It also distracts from the true question that should be asked:
Who, precisely, wrote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and why?
Our first clue comes from testimony given by Peter Orszag, then-Director of the Office of Management and Budget, before Congress in August of 2009. “Ultimately,” he said, “without structure in place to help contain health care costs over the long term as the health market evolves, nothing else we do in fiscal policy will matter much, because eventually health care cost will overwhelm the federal budget.”
If Orszag had been addressing the board of directors of Wellpoint, the nation’s second largest managed health care company, such a statement might seem perfectly proper. But, even accepting the wildly suspicious claim that 30 million Americans were uninsured, that’s still just 10% of the population. Approximately 12% are on Medicare. If 78% of Americans in 2009 were covered by private insurance, why would health care costs overwhelm the federal budget? It is more likely that rising health care costs would soon overwhelm the nation’s health insurance providers.
According to Kaiser Permanente, total health insurance costs in 1980 were $286 billion. By 2010, they had increased nearly tenfold to $2.3 trillion. As the population ages, that number is expected to soar. According to federal estimates, health care costs will double in the next decade and are likely to double again by 2030, when 70 million Americans – fully 20% of the population – will be over the age of 65. Could such dire estimates have provided the health insurance industry with a powerful $10 trillion incentive to move this looming liability off their balance sheets and onto the backs of the American taxpayer?
In May 2010, after final passage of the current health care law, Senator Max Baucus, from whose Finance Committee the legislation emerged, stood before the Senate and members of the press to publicly thank the person he credited with making it all happen:
“I wish to single out one person, and that one person is sitting next to me. Her name is Liz Fowler. Liz Fowler is my chief health counsel. Liz Fowler has put my health care team together. Liz Fowler worked for me many years ago, left for the private sector, and then came back when she realized she could be there at the creation of health care reform because she wanted that to be, in a certain sense, her professional lifetime goal. She put together the White Paper last November–2008–the 87-page document which became the basis, the foundation, the blueprint from which almost all health care measures in all bills on both sides of the aisle came.”
So who is Liz Fowler? Prior to joining Baucus’ staff as the senior advisor on health care, she was Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs for none other than the aforementioned number two insurance company, Wellpoint. Not to put too fine a point to it, but it would be equivalent to the chief lobbyist for AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), a national trade organization of over 1,300 insurers, infiltrating the Senate Finance Committee and writing a law to benefit not the American people, but the entire insurance industry. As it turns out, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not intended to make health insurance more affordable for the American people. It is designed to make the American people more affordable for the health insurance industry.
As it further turns out, Baucus’ staff was infested with Wellpoint hirelings. Prior to Fowler arriving on scene, the chief advisor on Senator Baucus’ team was Michelle Easton. Upon passing the baton to Ms. Fowler, Easton went to work as a lobbyist for Wellpoint at Tarplin, Downs and Young, a DC-based lobbying firm founded in 2006 “specializing in strategic consulting and policy development with a particular focus on health care”.
Keep turning the wheel, though, and we come to Stephen Northrup. Northrup was the chief health advisor to Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi when Enzi pushed similar health care legislation in 2006. Prior to joining Enzi’s staff, Northrup was the executive director of the Long Term Pharmacy Alliance, an organization that played a lead role on drafting the mother of all giveaways to Big Pharma, Medicare Part D. Not surprisingly, the revolving door and interchangeable roles of advisors/staff/lobbyists eventually lead Northrup in 2007 to Wellpoint, where he served as Vice President of Federal Affairs.
The insurance lobby, tired of decades of failed attempts to influence Congress to create a national health care plan which would immunize them from the looming trillions of dollars in liabilities they faced as the boomer generation aged, simply decided they would infiltrate Congress instead and write the legislation themselves. Time, after all, was running out.
But simply enacting the legislation was not enough. Big Insurance also demanded a seat at the table when it came time to actually drafting the regulations and implementing the law, since incompetent government bureaucrats could not be trusted to enact regulations and procedures that would fully indemnify the insurance lobby to its complete satisfaction. Which brings us to the return of Liz Fowler, the author of the Affordable Care Act who is now the Deputy Director of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Human Services, sort of an industry cop on watch to be sure government employees do what they are told.
Despite Big Insurance’s success in pulling off one of the most intricate swindles in the history of mankind by transferring tens of trillions of dollars of liabilities from their balance sheets to that of the Treasury Department, all to be paid for by massive tax increases on the American people (or fees, if you’re still arguing about the Commerce Clause in the increasingly irrelevant Constitution), the whole transaction would certainly deserve a special place in the pantheon of lawlessness were it not for the decidedly unhappy outcome it will have for the true victims of this crime - the American citizens, who are now merely the property of an insurance industry that has a vested interest in keeping them healthy while they are still useful. Those 22 year-olds who are today gleeful that they can stay on Mommy and Daddy’s insurance for a few more years won’t be quite as cheerful in 2030 when they are called before a panel Liz Fowler will undoubtedly have a role in creating to explain why their cholesterol level has increased or are informed that certain substances detected in their last blood test indicated they are surpassing the monthly limit on pepperoni pizzas. After being sent home with a hefty fine and orders to adhere to a strict diet of carrot sticks and mineral water, along with the latest behavioral modification drug developed by the recent merger of Pfizer and Merck, they may well wish they had been paying attention back in 2012, when there was still a chance to put a stop to it all.
In the meanwhile, it would be nice if certain political figures would put a stop to feigning political courage by mockingly referring to this legislation as Obamacare. Obama didn’t write it or read it and there is nothing caring about it. Call it what it is:
The Health Insurance Industry Protection Act.
You could also call it the end of freedom.