Commentary Magazine


Oh the Irony; Liberal NYC Elites are ObamaCare Losers

In the last few weeks the country has gradually become acquainted with the large and growing class of Americans that fall into the category of ObamaCare losers. The president and his cheerleaders in the liberal media have tried to change the subject from the dysfunctional website and the broken promises about keeping your coverage to one about the poor and those with pre-existing conditions who will now get health insurance. But it’s been hard to ignore the equally numerous people who have lost their coverage and been forced to accept more expensive plans that don’t suit their personal needs and come with enormous deductibles and other hidden costs. Most of these people are small business owners, contractors, and skilled craftsman in Middle America that aren’t likely to hobnob with the chattering classes. But it turns out that some of the biggest ObamaCare losers in the country are liberal elites living in the media capital of the world. And, though they thought the whole concept of bringing government into the health-care business was great, they are none too pleased about personally being victimized by the president’s big idea.

As the New York Times reported over the weekend, some prominent New York City liberals have recently found out just how unaffordable the so-called Affordable Care Act turned out to be. As many as 400,000 New Yorkers who are lawyers, doctors, writers, photographers, independent teachers, and even opera singers, who have been getting their health insurance via creative guilds and other entities that allowed these people to buy coverage in groups, have now been thrown into the individual market by ObamaCare.

They are part of an unusual, informal health insurance system that has developed in New York, in which independent practitioners were able to get lower insurance rates through group plans, typically set up by their professional associations or chambers of commerce. That allowed them to avoid the sky-high rates in New York’s individual insurance market, historically among the most expensive in the country.

But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage.

The result is that a large number of liberals are getting a good look at the business end of ObamaCare and don’t like the view.

“I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan.

Ms. Meinwald, 61, has been paying $10,000 a year for her insurance through the New York City Bar. A broker told her that a new temporary plan with fewer doctors would cost $5,000 more, after factoring in the cost of her medications.

Ms. Meinwald also looked on the state’s health insurance exchange. But she said she found that those plans did not have a good choice of doctors, and that it was hard to even find out who the doctors were, and which hospitals were covered. “It’s like you’re blindfolded and you’re told that you have to buy something,” she said.

This is exactly what conservative critics of ObamaCare have been saying. Though the president and his liberal defenders have been claiming the individual plans canceled by ObamaCare provided bad coverage, these New York elites beg to differ. They liked their plans and, more to the point, they liked being able to band together in creative and business association guilds so as to pool their resources and get more affordable coverage.

But that ran afoul of the redistributionist social engineering of the ACA that views these professionals not as citizens entitled to the best care at affordable prices but as healthy fodder whose sole purpose is to be gouged by the government system in order to pay for free care for less healthy and poorer people. Being shuffled into the state exchanges means these New Yorkers not only get lousier coverage but also are facing exorbitant rate increases.

To say that these generally liberal New Yorkers don’t care for the experience is an understatement.

It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

Conservatives may be forgiven a few chortles at their expense. But their plight is no less a source of concern than that of millions of other Americans who have similarly been given the shaft by the president’s signature health-care legislation. The political problem faced by liberals who have assumed that once ObamaCare was implemented it would become popular is that unlike Social Security and Medicare, the number of Americans who are net losers under the bill’s provisions may wind up being as numerous as those who benefit from it. That some of them are “Obama people” is ironic, but it also highlights the fact that those who are being hurt by ObamaCare are a group that cuts across geographic, class, and political lines.

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