Nursing homes need waiver for Obamacare 

Above the fold on Page 1 of The New York Times is not normally where one expects to find a news article that lays bare the threat posed by Obamacare to a key segment of the health care industry and hundreds of thousands of its workers. But the pro-Obamacare newspaper pulled no punches Monday in its column-one story, “Nursing homes seek a reprieve from health law.”

The focus of the piece was that “many nursing homes and home care agencies, alarmed at the cost of providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers, have started a lobbying effort seeking an exemption or special treatment that would relieve them of the obligation or help them with the expense.”

A little further on in the article, Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association, said his industry has to obtain a waiver from Obamacare because “we do not have much ability to increase prices because we are so dependent on Medicaid and Medicare” for revenue.

Neither of these statements should shock anybody. When government controls an industry, the health of firms within it inevitably becomes dependent on their influence in Washington, D.C., and state capitals.

Competition in a regulated industry is typically focused on hiring well-connected K Street lobbying firms, targeting the “right” Congress members on key committees for hefty campaign contributions and knowing which bureaucratic levers to pull in order to insure a favorable “business environment.” What is best for patients becomes an afterthought when bureaucratic formulas determine what care is provided and how, instead of private firms competing with each other to offer needed services at affordable prices while making enough profit to stay in business.

Another quote from the Times article points to two additional ways in which government regulation of an industry is harmful, usually to the very people it is intended to benefit. Debbie D. Gantz, administrator of a small Oklahoma nursing home, said she would offer her employees health insurance, but for the fact that “we are a small home. We are not part of a chain. We could not provide health insurance to our employees and still be able to pay all our bills and make the payroll.”

The result, if Obamacare becomes fully operational, will be that thousands of small nursing homes like Gantz’s will either have to fire employees and restrict services or be bought out by nursing home conglomerates, or both. The result will be fewer jobs for people who want them, and fewer care options available to those who desperately need them.

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