- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2013

Obamacare was supposed to be a boon for everyone who couldn’t afford health care. Now we know that’s not true. Medical coverage is about to become much more expensive, and the poor will be required to open bank accounts, whether they want to or not, paying the $225 in banking fees the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says is the current average.

The tax-preparation gurus at Jackson Hewitt estimate that 50 million Americans live quite contentedly in households without a bank account. The “unbanked,” as the study calls them, disproportionately tend to be low-income and uninsured — the very people Obamacare is meant to help. These people prefer to do their business in cash, which is a problem under the president’s health care law, because most health insurers require payment of premiums via checks or electronic funds transfers. If the unbanked can’t pay their premium, they’ll be hit with the individual-mandate penalty.

The Jackson Hewitt study estimates that 27 percent of currently uninsured Americans, or about 8.5 million of them, are at risk of falling into this trap. As is usual with federal programs, blacks and Hispanics will be hit hardest by what it calls a “discriminatory impact.” The report notes that those groups are more than 40 percent more likely to lack bank accounts than white counterparts in the same income category. Eleven of the 12 states with the highest proportion of the unbanked are among the 27 states where the federal government will be running the exchanges.

Moreover, while immigration-reform proponents assure us that the millions of illegal aliens that would be granted amnesty by their legislation would be ineligible for Obamacare subsidies, there are some congressmen who think illegals should be enabled to buy coverage. Most of them are in the underground economy and are unbanked.

Perhaps that means the Health and Human Services Department will have to hire more “navigators,” government employees hired to assist consumers through the confusing maze of the exchanges, and they can introduce the unbanked to the banks.

The report urges the government to require insurance providers to accept some of the forms of payment available to the unbanked, such as prepaid debit cards and Western Union and other money orders. Insurers, with bottom lines squeezed by the other mandates of Obamacare, are understandably concerned about the added cost of processing payments other than by checks and fund transfers. Imposing more requirements means raising costs for everyone.

That happens often with Obamacare because the law was put together with spit, duct tape and library paste, and done in haste. Unintended consequences are the inevitable result. As the scheduled Oct. 1 opening of the health care exchanges approaches, Congress must scramble to address these flaws now. Legislative triage is not the answer. Euthanasia is what this basket case needs.

The Washington Times