McCaleb: Still little clarity on health reform costs

Conceptually, providing access to affordable health care for all citizens is something that most Americans can get behind.

Who wants to deny reasonably priced insulin to an out-of-work single mother of three who is struggling with diabetes?

Or any kind of affordable care to a 24-year-old college graduate who’s fallen terribly sick but has no health insurance because he still can’t find a job with benefits in the aftermath of the Great Recession?

I know I don’t.

But I also live in the real world, where everything costs something, and some things cost much more than others.

The Affordable Care Act, aka
Obamacare, will provide access to health care to millions more American citizens. On its own, without the additional costs factored in, that’s a worthy endeavor.

But you can’t judge Obamacare without factoring in the costs. And they’re going to be enormous.

One of the ways President Barack Obama intends to pay for the additional costs of his health care overhaul is the controversial “individual mandate” that will require all Americans of means to purchase health insurance by 2014. That includes healthy younger adults who are just starting their careers, and who might not want to have that extra $100 or so taken out of their paycheck every two weeks (not including whatever the employer matches) because they won’t need to visit a doctor anytime soon.

Those who opt out of paying for health insurance – individuals and businesses – must pay a penalty, or – as correctly described by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts – a new tax.

But can the federal government really force Americans to buy a private commodity such as health insurance? And if so, what is Big Brother going to make us buy next?

A divided Supreme Court voted 5-4 Thursday to answer “yes” to the first question. I don’t have an answer to the second, but I worry that Thursday’s decision created an all-too ominous precedent.

• • •

Ruling aftermath: Whether you agree with the decision or not, at least Thursday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding most of Obamacare gives us some much-needed clarity.

Right?

Not exactly. So says Gary Reece, small-business owner and president of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Reece, who will emcee today’s Lakeside Festival parade from near Crystal Lake’s namesake lake, started Heartland Cabinet Supply in 1999. Heartland has been at its current Crystal Lake location on Rickert Road, just off Pingree Road, since 2003. Reece employs 10 people, and he offers them health insurance coverage.

But as is the case with all businesses that offer employee health insurance, his costs have skyrocketed in recent years. He expects that to continue because of the continued uncertainty about Obamacare, and how much it ultimately will cost.

“No one knows how much this is going to cost [long term],” Reece said Friday. “First, I think most people still don’t know what’s in it. And [forecasters] never have been accurate on the real costs. They always miss the mark.”

Despite the individual mandate, Reece thinks health insurance costs will continue to escalate for everyone, forcing many small businesses to make tough decisions that could have wide ramifications on the U.S. economy.

“I don’t know if they’ll lay off [workers], but they may not hire as quickly, or they may not hire at all,” Reece said. “Some who currently offer health insurance will say, ‘I just can’t pay this anymore,’ and they’ll pay the penalty,” forcing employees to find alternative health care options.

Obama and congressional Democrats might be claiming victory now. But now that the federal government is involved in our health care, tomorrow, everyone just might lose.

• • •

Not so fast: For about three minutes Thursday, we had the Supreme Court story wrong at NWHerald.com.

Since we don’t have our own reporter in Washington, D.C., we rely on wire services and syndicates for most national news such as this.

The Associated Press is our primary wire service, but before it moved a story Thursday, CNN began reporting that the Supreme Court had overturned the individual mandate.

In our haste to get something online and not sure when the AP was going to move anything, we wrote a brief story based on CNN’s erroneous report, attributing the information back to the cable TV network. It’s not quite “Dewey defeats Truman,” but it’s embarrassing nonetheless.

Moments after we published, AP moved its first report saying the Supreme Court actually upheld the individual mandate and most of Obamacare. About the same time, CNN began backtracking on its report, saying it essentially had misread the ruling.

We quickly updated our online story with AP’s report, the first of more than a dozen updates throughout the day.

If anything, we learned that patience remains a virtue, even in the fast-paced Internet age. And that being right trumps being fast, every time.

• • •

Double the pleasure: It’s easy enough to get excited about watching the Olympics every four years, cheering on our American athletes.

But McHenry County now has two more good reasons to hop onto the London 2012 bandwagon.

We’ll have not just one, but two athletes representing the Stars and Stripes later this month in the U.K.

Algonquin native Evan Jager, a 2007 graduate of Jacobs High School, ran away from the field Thursday night to win the U.S. championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, earning him our country’s top roster spot in the event in London.

Crystal Lake native and 2000 Prairie Ridge graduate Amy LePeilbet is on the U.S. women’s soccer roster for the summer games. LePeilbet started on defense in all six games for the silver-medal-winning U.S. team during last year’s World Cup, and is a likely starter when the team makes its debut at the Olympics July 25 against France. She started Saturday’s exhibition match against Canada before being pulled at halftime.

Best of luck to both. And stay tuned to the Northwest Herald as we cover two of McHenry County’s finest athletes on their road to the London Games.

• • •

Everyone loves a parade: Join me, Gary Reece, and thousands of others at 1 p.m. today for the Lakeside Festival’s annual Independence Day Parade down Dole Avenue toward Crystal Lake’s namesake lake.

I’ll be driving the Northwest Herald’s van, while my wife, two children and in-laws pass out candy, wave and do other assorted parade things.

I’ll also be the one blaring Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s new “Americana” CD in honor of the holiday. Believe me when I say that these renditions of American childhood classics such as “Oh, Susannah,” “Clementine” and “Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain)” aren’t quite what you heard in grammar school. But they’re well worth the listen.

And, yes, I do still buy CDs. (And LPs, too.)

Happy Fourth, all.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com.

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