Stepping Out of the Government-Focused Lala Land on ObamaCare

Last night, Matt Allen was talking about the enrollment numbers for the ObamaCare health benefits exchanges, including HealthSource RI, and he made a critical point: Everybody’s talking about the great success of millions of enrollees (or, in RI, a few tens of thousands), but they’re forgetting two important things:

  • People have to buy this product. It’s a bit like declaring how the DMV is selling drivers’ licenses like gangbusters without considering that people have to have them in order to drive.
  • While watching the horse race of enrollment, we shouldn’t forget that the entire premise of the government’s forcing people to buy a product is objectionable.

Matt was speaking in terms of Constitutional rights and individual liberty, but his point has a practical dimension, as well. All of the talk about the enrollment numbers illustrates why government is not a good social institution to conduct business transactions.

Yesterday, I mentioned how media coverage illustrates how inappropriate it is for the government to blur the line between public-service-announcement government programs and start-up-company advertising buys. Today’s talk about enrollment illustrates how near to impossible it is for government programs designed as business ventures to receive the appropriate scrutiny.

Nationwide, Democrats are spinning the numbers as a positive. In local media, Ted Nesi notes that:

The Washington-based consulting firm Avalere Health forecast last fall that 33,000 people would enroll in private insurance plans through HealthSource RI during the 2014 open enrollment period, though it lowered the estimate to 28,000 in February. The state has already far exceeded a federal forecast of 12,000 sign-ups made last year.

That sounds like a success or a near-miss, at worst, but this isn’t at all how the results should be viewed. 28,000 is only one-fifth of the 125,000 government officials were expecting when Governor Chafee blazed a national trail and committed his state to build an exchange by executive order. It’s a little better than two-fifths of the 64,000 the state was projecting last spring, when there was still time to stop or delay the program.

And this doesn’t address the much-greater disparity between projections and reality when it comes to people paying the full price, without government subsidies.

The public has to consider HealthSource RI as what it is: a government-backed start-up company. If I’ve invested money in a start-up in expectation of a return, I’m going to look at the results as compared with what I was told they would be when I handed over my money. In the case of HealthSource, the paying customers don’t even come close to matching expectations, and the people to whom we’re committed to giving the free version of the product (Medicaid) are far exceeding expectations.

Journalists who accept the government’s spin away from the real narrative of what’s happened aren’t equipping the public to make judgments as the investors in and ultimate directors of the government, nor are they adequately preparing the public to understand what’s sure to happen as we move forward.


Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?

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