By Betsy McCaughey • New York Post
Bad news for New Yorkers, thanks to ObamaCare: More than 100,000 policyholders just learned that their Health Republic insurance plans will be canceled on Dec. 31. The start-up insurer (spun off from the Freelancers’ Union) is hemorrhaging red ink and has to close down.
That’s unfortunate for the policyholders, who now have to scramble to find other coverage and try to keep their doctors.
But even worse is the abuse of taxpayers across the country: Congress loaned a whopping $2.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to Health Republic of New York and 22 other boondoggle insurance co-ops, even after being warned by its own budget experts that many co-ops would fail and not repay the loans. How carelessly politicians spend other people’s money.
If anything, the experts’ warnings were understated. Across the nation, 21 out of the 23 co-ops are either shut down already or losing money. And it’s your money going down the rathole.
The Obama administration itself labeled six of the co-ops in critical condition. Too bad it refuses to disclose which ones: Policyholders deserve as much warning as possible that their insurance may be on the rocks.
Thank the left-wingers in Congress and the Obama White House who concocted this scheme back in 2010 for this mess.
Abhorring for-profit insurance companies, they insisted that the Affordable Care Act establish nonprofit insurance cooperatives to compete with big players like Aetna and Humana.
Preposterously, the Obama administration specified that the co-ops be run by novices with no history of ties to the insurance industry. As if measuring risk and pricing policies is something that requires no expertise.
Obama administration rules also barred the start-ups from spending money on advertising or marketing to make their products known. Why? Because the left has always blamed the high cost of health insurance on ad spending. It was a formula for failure.
A wacky ideological agenda doomed these co-ops from the start.
The New York co-op’s collapse is an especially humiliating defeat for the Freelancers’ Union and Sara Horowitz, its self-proclaimed labor visionary, who has spent years touting the benefits of the collectivist “sharing economy.” But make no mistake: Taxpayers and policyholders nationwide are taking a hit.
All across the country, loans went to Obama cronies from his pre-presidential career as a community activist. During the fall of 2012, as his first term neared its end, Obama shoveled out money to these experimental start-ups.
Remember the outrage over the failed green energy project Solyndra? That only cost taxpayers $500 million — a fifth of what they could be forced to pay for the co-op folly.
The losses are racking up. A co-op in Vermont closed in 2013. Iowa’s CoOpportunity Health collapsed in January, taking $145 million in federal loans with it.
Louisiana’s Health Cooperative shut down in July, after a steady stream of red ink. And in August, Nevada’s co-op announced it will close up by Jan. 1. It had $65.9 million in federal loans on its books.
A July inspector general’s report warns that several remaining co-ops are tottering. Yet the media are almost silent.
That’s especially regrettable: Policyholders should be warned that they may have to switch plans (and doctors) in the future. And the public should get a straight story about how its tax dollars are going up in smoke.
During the wrangling in Congress over Obama’s health law, the co-ops became the consolation prize for lawmakers dreaming of socialist health care, also called a single-payer plan. There’s a lesson here, though some people refuse to accept it.
A Health Republic executive suggested that the co-ops are failing because a “bitterly partisan Congress” provided less funding than they actually needed. No, more funding would have resulted in more taxpayer money down the drain.
When you want to solve a complex problem like increasing access to health care and controlling costs, look to the marketplace, not the ivory-tower wonks and community activists whose hubris is rivaled only by their lack of practical knowledge.
Betsy McCaughey is the author of “Beating ObamaCare” and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.