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Why More People Are Losing Health Coverage Than Enrolling in It

The disparity between those losing coverage and those gaining demonstrates the private sector is, and always will be, better at managing events than the government.
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If you still need proof that the private sector does things so much better than the government, look how efficiently millions of people are being kicked out of their health-insurance plans.

Between seven million and 14 million Americans are due to have their insurance canceled by their private carriers in the next year, according to NBC News, and many of those people have already received notices.

In fact, more than 1.5 million people have already been notified they are losing their plans. Meanwhile, as of last Thursday, just 700,000 people had registered for Obamacare plans – and, as CNN notes, that number includes Medicaid enrollees and people who might not actually qualify for plans under the Affordable Care Act.

So the number of people losing health insurance is far outstripping the number of people enrolling.

Why? Well, Obamacare proponents will say it is just because the technological “glitches” for the program's consumer-facing website need to be corrected. Opponents will say this was the problem all along – that the economics of the plan will force people out of their comfortable, existing plans, right onto the long lines to the death panels.

But, in fact, the disparity between those losing coverage and those gaining it is less controversial from a political standpoint. It is simply because the private sector is, and always will be, better at managing events than the government.

It is not that Obamacare snuck up on anyone. It has been the defining event of Obama's presidency, a lightning rod for political discourse and a move that impacts every American. Death panels have been paneled to death on cable television, and every pundit with an undergrad course in economics has found a way to write, talk or rant about it.

So, it really doesn't fly that anyone is unprepared. Yet, the government rolled out a technological spit sandwich that found a way to make Kathleen Sebelius the funniest comedian since Gallagher. It has been bad enough that the administration, after flatly rejecting any delay to implementation during the government shutdown earlier this month, decided to delay implementation after all.

Meanwhile, private health insurance companies updated their systems, evaluated their plans and members, and complied with their end of the law. On time.

You see, the health insurance companies can't keep these members in their own plans anymore. Because of minimum requirements under ACA, the plans can't exist anymore. So companies, with private-sector efficiency, are shutting them down and shutting out members. The fact that the government isn't anywhere near ready to handle this waterfall of newly uninsured isn't the fault of the companies.

One reason why companies were so prepared is that they understand a thing about government: It's not the law that gets you, it's the regulations written by bureaucrats after passage that really can screw a business. Indeed, it appears to be the regulations, not the law, that is at the heart of so many Americans losing health coverage because of a policy that was supposed to guarantee inexpensive coverage for all. Older plans in place were supposed to be grandfathered into the law, even if they didn't meet coverage minimums, so people could keep their existing plans. But, as NBC News notes, the Department of Health and Human Services then “wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.” Since plans change all the time, that effectively widened the number of people affected.

How this plays out is an open question, and one can hope that the nightmare individuals are going through now prevents businesses from suffering the same administrative cyclone a year from now.

Perhaps, the government will learn the best practices of the private sector and reform. Or, better, maybe some will realize that the private market can manage health coverage in America better than a government that doesn't even realize the regulations it writes are undermining its own external messaging.

Of course, we had a private system before. You shouldn't hold your breath waiting for a change. Suffocation may not be covered under your new plan.