Hmmm. I think that James Taranto may be on to something:
Our argument was that the horrors of the exchanges would give workers newfound appreciation for their employer plans, increasing the pressure on both companies and politicians to preserve the existing system. To judge by this story in the New York Times, we were right:
Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day–or $36,500 a year–for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.
The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.
The key word here is tax-free: Employers can give raises in lieu of medical insurance, but the former, unlike the latter, are taxable income. “The I.R.S. is going out of its way to keep employers in the group insurance market and to reduce the incentives for them to drop coverage,” Richard Lindquist, president of a benefits software company, tells the Times.
The word that got our attention, though, is dump. It appears in the headline, too: “I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges.” If the New York Times were our only source of news, we’d be very confused right now. (Well, OK, we’d be very confused almost always.) For months the Times has been touting the quality of ObamaCare policies, scoffing at those who liked their previous plans and were victimized by President Obama’s fraudulent promise that they could keep them.
Now all of a sudden the exchanges are a garbage dump? Or is it that the exchanges are a pristine wilderness into which workers are the garbage being dumped?
What I think is evolving under the PPACA is that we will become a country in which it is understood that there are tiers of care. At the highest tier are those with employer-provided plans or, for the time being at least, Medicare. The next tier will be occupied with those who are insured under the exchanges and the lowest tier will be Medicaid.
That’s been implicit for a long time but it’s becoming much more explicit now.