The irony illustrated on the pages of Monday’s New York Times was almost too delicious.
Harvard University professors — an elite group of academics with a collective IQ in the millions — have finally discovered what most of the uneducated masses discerned almost immediately: The Affordable Care Act is expensive, and working Americans are paying the bill.
According to the Times’ Robert Pear, members of the storied institution’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences have overwhelmingly opposed changes to the university health plan that will increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs for thousands of Harvard employees.
The changes responsible for causing the apoplexy are things like cost-free preventive services, the extension of coverage for younger adults up to age 26 and the so-called “Cadillac tax” (which taxes many of the expensive plans Harvard provides its faculty) — all the result of the sweeping healthcare law we now call Obamacare.
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In the words of one disgruntled professor, the cost increases are “deplorable” and “deeply regressive.” Another referred to them as “a pay cut.”
Hmm. Those are peculiar complaints about a law hailed by the progressive left and purported to save the average family $2,500 a year in premiums.
Of course, the real humor in this revelation is that most Harvard academics, and their colleagues at exclusive institutions around the country, overwhelmingly supported the Affordable Care Act. Some even advised Congress on its construction.
But like many of the law’s advocates, they’ve come to realize that its high ideals are translating into harsh realities for Americans, many of whom are experiencing higher premiums and deductibles, more cost-sharing and more limited networks.
It’s worth noting that the increased burdens that will hit Harvard employees this year are not terribly substantial, at least when compared to costs that will be borne by ordinary working folks. The university is merely adopting features present in most employer-sponsored health plans where employees pay deductibles and a share of other costs, such as surgery and diagnostic testing. And the costs to be incurred by Harvard employees are exceptionally modest.
As the Times reports, “Harvard’s new plan is far more generous than plans sold on public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Harvard says its plan pays 91 percent of the cost of services for the covered population, while the most popular plans on the exchanges, known as silver plans, pay 70 percent, on average.’”
We should all be so lucky.
But the reality is that what’s happening at Harvard isn’t an isolated incident. One of the university’s more realistic employees, health economist David M. Cutler, told the Times: “Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in healthcare in the country.”
That’s an overstatement for sure, as even Harvard’s modestly compensated employees will avoid the costs that are plaguing many small and medium-sized businesses (on account of the Health Insurance Tax, the impending employer mandate and the new definition of a full-time employee) and the self-employed, many of whom have seen their bills rise so steeply that the idea of forgoing insurance and paying the penalty (a tax according to the U.S. Supreme Court) is an appealing alternative.
As Bloomberg’s exasperated Megan McArdle writes, the deepest irony of the Harvard uproar is that its faculty suffer from the same mass delusion that animates so many of the law’s advocates elsewhere, “that there is some magic pot of money in the healthcare system, which can be painlessly tapped to provide universal coverage without dislocating any of the generous arrangements that insured people currently enjoy.”
For all the degrees among them, even Harvard’s brightest minds believed that government benefits were free.
Perhaps even instructors at the nation’s most elite institutions have things to learn.
Cynthia M. Allen is a Star-Telegram editorial writer/columnist. 817-390-7166.