Consequences of health care bill unfolding

During the debates on federalized health care, there was no shortage of people projecting the negative consequences of such a policy. Those consequences are beginning to be realized.

Two of the country’s largest insurance providers, UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield, already have stopped issuing new coverage for children and other plans.

The Associated Press reports that those cutbacks have started in Florida. Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner told AP that other companies were cutting coverage in that state as well.

A spokeswoman for the federal Health and Human Services Department voiced the administration’s disappointment that “a small number of insurance companies are taking this unwarranted and unnecessary step.”

The number might be small, but these two insurance giants do business across the country, and provide insurance for a large percentage of Americans. So it’s safe to assume the companies will make similar curtailments in other states as well.

In addition, no one expects these to be the only insurers to bail out of a program that undermines their profitability by restricting both their ability to reduce their risk and to charge higher rates in order to offset that risk.

Officials were quick to call this an “unintended consequence” of the federal health care law. Unintended it might be, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected.

Expect it to get worse. With two of the largest companies out of the pool, the risk will become more concentrated among those that remain. The incentives for other companies to bail out, then, will only increase.

As the nationalized health care program takes effect, we can expect more “unintended” consequences to appear, such as losing insurance as an employee benefit and having greater difficulty finding doctors who will accept new patients.

The American College of Emergency Physicians recently surveyed 1,800 emergency room doctors and reported that 70 percent predict emergency rooms to become more crowded, not less, with federalized health care. Half of them predict this will make patient care in emergency rooms worse than it is now.

It only stands to reason that the new government health care program will face the same problems as the current programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Affairs services. All are known to be rife with fraud and waste; hundreds of cases of inadequate, unnecessary or erroneous treatment have been documented.

We were warned about what would happen if we turned health care into yet another massive government bureaucracy. As those consequences begin to materialize we may express dismay or even anger. One thing we can’t honestly express, however, is surprise.