Harvard Faculty Frantically Fights to Stop ObamaCare Healthcare Cost Increases

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

The New York Times has a hilarious article on how Harvard’s faculty ran afoul of the ObamaCare “reforms” they pushed down America’s throat, and they don’t like it one little bit.

ObamaCare for thee but not for me has been the mantra of this disaster since Day One; every liberal with the power to escape from it grabs the first waiver that floats their way, led by the congressional Democrats who worked hard to ensure their great work of legislative genius wouldn’t apply to them. The folks at Harvard could find no such escape hatch:

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.

The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?

“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” said David M. Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But only up to a point: Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees. That makes the outrage among the faculty remarkable, Mr. Cutler said, because “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.”

In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven byhealth care reform,” otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.

You mean when intrusive government regulations are piled on top of a product, it gets more expensive? How the hell was anyone in the Harvard faculty lounge supposed to see that coming?

Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”

Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. “Moreover,” she said, “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.”

I’ve got tears of laughter streaming down my face at the moment, so I’ll quote a little more from the Times while I regain my composure. Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside the ivory tower at this precarious moment! What astounding bleats from these cloistered academics you would overhear!

The university is adopting standard features of most employer-sponsored health plans: Employees will now pay deductibles and a share of the costs, known as coinsurance, for hospitalization, surgery and certain advanced diagnostic tests. The plan has an annual deductible of $250 per individual and $750 for a family. For a doctor’s office visit, the charge is $20. For most other services, patients will pay 10 percent of the cost until they reach the out-of-pocket limit of $1,500 for an individual and $4,500 for a family.

Previously, Harvard employees paid a portion of insurance premiums and had low out-of-pocket costs when they received care.

Michael E. Chernew, a health economist and the chairman of the university benefits committee, which recommended the new approach, acknowledged that “with these changes, employees will often pay more for care at the point of service.” In part, he said, “that is intended because patient cost-sharing is proven to reduce overall spending.”

Breaking news for the special snowflakes of Harvard: the “Affordable” Care Act is a scam that hides its enormous costs in a number of ways, as outlined by another academic, chief architect Jonathan Gruber, in a series of speeches the general public wasn’t supposed to hear. One of those scams is the way lower subsidized premiums are offset by enormous out-of-pocket costs, on the theory that a relatively small percentage of ObamaCare customers would directly experience “co-payment shock” in the first few years. By the time people got wise to just how expensive their “affordable” coverage became if they actually dared to use it, ObamaCare would be surrounded by the same invincible dependency army that protects every other Big Government boondoggle. It doesn’t matter if most people realize it’s an expensive sham, provided that a hard core of subsidy-dependent voters can be persuaded they can’t survive without their taxpayer-financed benefits.

The limitations of fair use oblige me to send the reader to the New York Times to read the rest of the article, but really, every single paragraph is a howler. Okay, wait, I’ll surrender to temptation and give you one more sample:

In addition, some ideas that looked good to academia in theory are now causing consternation. In 2009, while Congress was considering the health care legislation, Dr. Alan M. Garber — then a Stanford professor and now the provost of Harvard — led a group of economists who sent an open letter to Mr. Obama endorsing cost-control features of the bill. They praised the Cadillac tax as a way to rein in health costs and premiums.

Dr. Garber, a physician and health economist, has been at the center of the current Harvard debate. He approved the changes in benefits, which were recommended by a committee that included university administrators and experts on health policy.

I can think of no better epitaph for the American republic than “Some ideas that looked good to academia in theory are now causing consternation.”

One of the problems afflicting any discussion of health care reform is that people don’t look at health insurance, or medicine, as consumer goods. Health care expenses are a bad thing, a penalty, a curse that falls upon people when they have the bad luck to require treatment. Health insurance is a deeply annoying expense meant to alleviate the financial pain of falling ill. People don’t really like shopping for health care, which is one reason they were willing to give ObamaCare a shot—they were promised a high-tech web site that would make buying insurance as fun and easy as shopping at Amazon.com. Stop sniggering, those were the President’s exact promises. Forget about what HealthCareDotGov actually turned out to be, and remember what was promised to the electorate. They were going to be just a few mouse clicks away from scoring the best possible deal on health insurance in their area!

Because they hold this attitude about health care, people are willing to forget that it is a commodity, subject to all the same market forces as the products they enjoy shopping for.  This dovetails with the liberal academic’s conviction that what is good should also be free.  Desirable products become “human rights” gently showered upon a deserving populace by the Mother State.  The Little People shouldn’t have to worry their little heads about how they’ll pay for all the goods and services they supposedly have a “right” to.

Academics are agonizingly slow to learn the lesson that simply because a band of central planners decrees that something should be cheap and readily available, the laws of economics are not magically suspended.  One of those laws is that cost-shifting never makes anything cheaper; it only fools people into believing it’s cheaper, because they’re not directly paying the full price themselves.  Hidden costs are still real.  The fine print employed to gruberize expensive programs and make them look like short-term bargains to the Congressional Budget Office eventually expires. If nothing else, we can congratulate the faculty of Harvard for finally learning that regulations aren’t free in the real world, even when they look great on paper.


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