- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thanks to Obamacare, more people will find themselves without health insurance. It turns out President Obama’s signature accomplishment was so badly drafted that businesses are likely to find it more cost-effective to pay a government penalty than provide insurance to their employees. As a result, up to 6 million Americans with jobs could either be forced to find more expensive individual plans or go uninsured and pay the individual-mandate fine.

Government programs have a habit of accomplishing the opposite of their stated goal, and this is no exception. Here, the idea was to force businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide “affordable” coverage. The enforcement mechanism was a $2,000 per-employee fine, starting in 2014, but the House Ways and Means Committee discovered the employer mandate has the opposite effect.

“The law offers employers a financial incentive to drop, not keep, offering coverage to their employees,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, told The Washington Times. “When it comes down to the bottom line, companies could save billions of dollars by ceasing to offer health insurance while simultaneously placing millions of Americans on taxpayer-funded exchanges.”

The committee analyzed data from 71 of the Fortune 100 companies that would see a combined $422 billion savings from 2014-2023 by paying the fine. That puts at risk the 10 million employees and dependents currently insured on these firms’ plans. The 170 million Americans who get their health care from employer-sponsored insurance may face the same predicament.

Those booted off their employers’ plans won’t find good alternatives in the new system. A Kaiser Family Foundation study of projected costs for individual-mandate plans in 2014 found the least costly premium option will be the “Bronze” plan whose deductibles are so high that it will only be useful to avoid the fine and provide catastrophic coverage. Individuals will pay 20 percent coinsurance after meeting a deductible of $4,375 or 40 percent after a $3,475 deductible. These deductibles would be doubled for families.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows 55 percent of likely voters want Obamacare repealed, and Mr. Obama appears aware of the unpopularity. In the past month, the president has referenced health care reform on camera only once, but Mr. Obama has crowed about Obamacare at five private Democratic fundraisers since then. First lady Michelle Obama has praised her husband’s health care law at six other campaign events. Obamacare is a useful talking point only with the most liberal members of the base - and with the doors closed.

Mr. Obama did break his silent shame to make a joke about his health care takeover being overturned in the Supreme Court. At Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he did a riff on what to expect in a second Obama administration. “In my first term, we passed health care reform. In my second term, I guess I’ll pass it again.” The crowd chortled and applauded, but it’s no laughing matter to those who could lose their employer-provided coverage in less than two years.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.