Ross Douthat weighs in on the debate over whether California will see “rate shock” under Obamacare. He notes that the question surrounding health care reform isn’t whether premiums will go up for the young or the old; there will be “losers” in any health care reform, right or left. The question is, rather, how much Obamacare will raise premiums by, and whether the increase will be high enough to doom the law:
If “rate shock” just means “some healthy/young/well-off people pay a little more for insurance,” then liberals are right to downplay its significance.
The unanswered question, though, is whether that “a little more” will actually be — or gradually become — a lot. And that’s what’s getting left out of some of the liberal brush-offs (yes, I’m looking at you, Chait) of the “rate shock” issue. Whatever young people’s attitudes toward insurance in the abstract, if rates go up way too fast, they almost certainly won’t buy into the new system, opting (whether consciously or semi-accidentally) to pay the fine instead. And that kind of mass opting-out is basically Obamacare’s worst-case scenario…
Read the whole thing. The riverboat gamble known as Obamacare may or may not work; we expect both the friends and the opponents of the system will be disappointed with what is likely to be a messy, mushy reality. But it’s interesting how many mainstream pundits don’t seem to mind saddling struggling young people with higher costs that subsidize the middle aged. There was a time when helping young people off to a good start in life was a central preoccupation of American politics and wonkery; that time, it is clear, is long past.