by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
According to the subheadline of Kevin Williamson‘s latest column for National Review Online, “It doesn’t work because it couldn’t work.” The “it” is the Affordable Care Act.
Regardless of whether there is a President Cruz or a President Rubio in January 2017, regardless of the existence or size of a Republican majority in Congress, the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed. The grand vision of an efficient pseudo-market in health insurance under enlightened federal management — the heart of Obamacare — is not coming to pass. Obamacare, meaning the operating model that undergirded the law that Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed with great fanfare — is dead, and it will not be revived. What remains is fitful chaos.
A brief refresher:
The fundamental problem with ACA is that under it, insurance ceases to be insurance. Insurance is a prospective financial product, one that exploits the mathematical predictability of certain life events among very large groups of people — out of 1 million 40-to-60-year-old Americans, x percent will get in car wrecks every year, and y percent will be diagnosed with chronic renal failure — which allows actuaries and the insurance companies that employ them to calculate premiums based on risk, thus funding the reimbursement of certain expenses incurred by the insurance pool’s members. Insurance is, by its very nature, always forward-looking, considering events that have yet to come to pass but that may be expected and, to a reasonable extent, predicted with some level of specificity. Under ACA, insurance is retrospective. ACA mandates that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, meaning events that already have happened, which renders the basic mathematical architecture of insurance — the calculation of risk among large pools of people — pointless. Insurance ceases to be insurance and instead becomes something else, namely a very badly constructed cost-sharing program.