Americans have been making known their displeasure over Obamacare for years. Poll after poll, survey after survey, election after election – they’ve all shown a widespread disapproval of the law and its impact on health insurance prices. But all the media has served up are perfunctory stories that glumly present the poll results attached with the caveat that Americans don’t know the law very well. The implication is if those silly plebeians would only take the time to understand Obamacare, they’d wrap their arms around it for a warm, comfy hug.
So leave it to the New York Times to report that Harvard faculty, many of whom are responsible for the ideas undergirding the health law, are coming around to the commoners’ point of view. Robert Pear reports:
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.
Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.
This year Harvard was forced to increase the employee contribution to its health insurance plan, a decision that, it says, was the result of “the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform.” In particular Harvard mentioned the “added costs” attributable to the new minimum benefit standards that include things like coverage for young adults up to age 26 and free preventative services.
The Times goes on to dip into some of the reactions from professors on campus. Richard F. Thomas, who apparently is “one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil,” said the changes were “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.” Mary D. Lewis, who teaches French history, called the changes a “pay cut” and said the introduction of a $250 deductible (gasp!) and 10 percent coinsurance (egads!) would occur “at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.” For comparison’s sake, the average deductible for an individual bronze Obamacare plan was $5,081 while silver plans (a step up) typically cover 70 percent of costs.
It’s difficult to generate sympathy for your position when you continue to be better off than pretty much any other health care consumer. It becomes even more difficult when faculty from the same institution were deeply involved in the creation of the very pieces of Obamacare that led to the price increases
Nevertheless, Harvard University did its best to allay some of the costs by establishing a fund to mitigate cost increases. Even that was not enough. In a response, sociology professor Mary C. Waters, called the changes “better than nothing but it is a band aid on a hemorrhage.”
The soaring rhetoric is evidence, as Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View, of a mistaken point of view:
Instead, they persist in our mass delusion: that there is some magic pot of money in the health-care system, which can be painlessly tapped to provide universal coverage without dislocating any of the generous arrangements that insured people currently enjoy. Just as there are no leprechauns, there is no free money at the end of the rainbow; there are patients demanding services, and health-care workers making comfortable livings, who have built their financial lives around the expectation that those incomes will continue. Until we shed this delusion, you can expect a lot of ranting and raving about the hard truths of the real world.
In health care there is no free lunch. In fact, there is not even a nice diner at which to purchase an affordable lunch. Instead, we have a system where doctors are treated (and paid) like celebrity chefs and the government now requires that you purchase the prix fixe menu.
The academicians sitting in their offices attempting to figure out novel approaches to solve what is ostensibly a market problem only continue to make things worse. Obamacare, and its utter disruption of price signals, is the result of that meddling. Perhaps it would be funny to watch the Harvard faculty hoisted on their own petards, if they hadn’t already hung the rest of us upon them first.