A surreptitious tax on young people

Holman Jenkins asks “What happens to the old, sick and high-risk if the young don’t show up and subsidize their health care?”

With enough time and unlimited resources, the government can invent the atom bomb or deliver men to the moon with 1960s technology. Fixing the exchange websites, though, won’t fix the fact that ObamaCare depends on noneconomic enthusiasm to drive enlistment of people for whom ObamaCare is an objectively bad deal—the “marks” in grifter terminology.

The mandate is too weak. The penalties are too light to give ObamaCare’s juiciest marks a rational incentive to buy. Yet with enough tweets from celebrities; with enough cloying talk urging 20- and 30-somethings to “have Obama’s back;” with enough blather about “young invincibles,” as if a young person’s reluctance to overpay for health insurance is somehow a blind spot; the hope was that enough young, healthy, low-risk applicants could be gulled into paying through the nose to subsidize the high-risk.

This is what’s actuarially known as wishful thinking.

ObamaCare did not need to be a con job. Insurers could have been allowed to offer the young and low-risk the sensible, affordable policies that insurers already sell them in voluntary transactions. The older and sicker customers whom ObamaCare wishes to subsidize could have been subsidized directly with tax dollars.

Yes, the visible budgetary cost would have been higher, but only because the program would have to funded with honest, visible taxes rather than a surreptitious tax on young people. And the actual cost would have been lower for two reasons. A lot more low-risk people would have signed up. Secondly, under ObamaCare as now designed, any low-risk customer who signs up has an incentive to overconsume health care to recoup his mandated investment in overpriced health insurance.

Jonah Goldberg concurs, calling it the biggest domestic lie in presidential history:

 

Jenkins again:

Democrats like Harry Reid, who favors a single payer system, and Republicans like Ted Cruz, who favors something or other, have one important thing in common. Both have figured out that ObamaCare can’t fix our health-care system and that new fights over “reform” lie in our not-distant future.

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