May 13 2014

ObamaCare: "Breaking the Choice Habit"

Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has.

The speaker was Marcus Merz of Preferred One, a Minnesota health insurer, as quoted in a New York Times story on narrowing our choices about health care. And he's talking about you and your health care choices. Except that you may not have many choices in the future.

Peter Suderman of Reason magazine writes:

Merz is basically stating openly what the Obama administration won’t, which is that Obamacare is intentionally designed to narrow consumer choice and plan design within the health insurance market.

According to Suderman, the administration won’t say this because it is bad politics--that is to say most of us would hate it--but the law’s authors knew it all along and have designed a system that will give us what they want us to have rather than what we want us to have.

 Merz added that we must “break away from this fixation on open access and broad networks.” To help wean us from the practice of making our own decisions about our health care, the ObamaCare-dominated insurance industry is going to resurrect something very similar to the loathed Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) of the 1990s. We will have narrow-network plans, as people did with the hated HMOs.

Recognizing the enormous unpopularity of HMOs, the architects and supporters of ObamaCare promise that this time it will be different:

Yes, obviously this time it is different, in the sense that there is now a mandate to buy insurance and a bevy of administration-enforced rules and regulations about what sorts of plans, covering what sorts of procedures, can be sold through the exchanges. Hence the necessary “breaking of the choice habit.” The law is written in such a way as to severely constrain and, as a result, practically predetermine which sorts of plans are available at any given price point. Insurers all end up offering what amounts to a few standard models, plus or minus a handful of decorative touches. 

Given the limited choices and the requirement to buy, then, it’s not really surprising that many customers end up choosing cheaper plans—and the narrow networks that inevitably go along with them. Or, as Karen Ignani, the head of the insurance industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, says in the article’s second best quote, “What we’re finding is individuals are experiencing a preference for affordability.”

It’s worth stopping for a moment to admire that quote. It is a minor masterpiece of lobbying communications nothing-speak. It is almost entirely removed from action or accountability. It's like she's talking about a new observational study on cloud formations. 

In reality, they are talking about our health care, an intimate area of our lives over which we no longer will have much control.

The “choice habit” must be broken because there won’t be many choices.

What if the architects of ObamaCare had told us the truth up front?

 

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