Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Harvard's professors championed Obamacare. What happened next was hilarious

Can't ... breathe ... too ... much ... laughter ... (from the New York Times ):

"For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

"Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed."

Alas, the professors' absolute shock at finding the Affordable Care Act something less than affordable came too late to stave off a financial hit this year.

The irony -- and the schadenfreude -- is deep with this one. Consider that Harvard, according to one health economist on faculty who advised Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and was quoted by the Times, "was and remains a very generous employer" that nonetheless is forced to raise premiums to pay for new "free" benefits, such as preventative services and the ability for employees to keep their adult children on their insurance until age 26. And that's not even counting the "Cadillac tax" on plans Washington deems overly generous, which doesn't take effect until 2018 and could well produce a reaction not seen since the great toilet paper controversy of the 1990s.

(Harvard learns about Obamacare changes.)

The Times' broad description of this plan -- which another Harvard professor dubbed "deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university" -- will seem familiar to pretty much any American who can't afford to send his kid to Harvard:

"Employees will now pay deductibles and a share of the costs, known as coinsurance, for hospitalization, surgery and certain advanced diagnostic tests. The plan has an annual deductible of $250 per individual and $750 for a family. For a doctor’s office visit, the charge is $20. For most other services, patients will pay 10 percent of the cost until they reach the out-of-pocket limit of $1,500 for an individual and $4,500 for a family."

Obamacare: A law supposedly for the benefit of the common people, at the behest of ivory-tower types who apparently now have to look up the definitions of "deductible" and "coinsurance." If there's a better one-lie description for the law, I haven't seen it. William F. Buckley , and the first 400 names in the Boston phone book, should demand a recount.

Now let's go quickly through some of the other instructive quotes from the story:

  • "Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. 'Moreover,' she said, 'this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.'" NB: If you refer to the requirement to pay for a service as a "pay cut," modern France is precisely the right field of study for you.
  • "'It’s equivalent to taxing the sick,' (economics) Professor (Jerry R.) Green said. 'I don't think there's any government in the world that would tax the sick.'" No government, dear economics professor, except all the governments that tax middle-income workers at higher rates than our highest earners pay, in order to provide them with "free" health care.
  • "'It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people,' said Mary C. Waters, a professor of sociology. 'I don't understand why a university with Harvard's incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?'" File this under "things you should have considered before shouting 'there's a crisis' and demanding the government 'do something' that would affect employer-based insurance, including yours."

It's as if Obamacare isn't getting more popular the more we get to know it.

Closing question: Who knew, back when Jonathan Gruber talked about "stupid" voters falling for Obamacare, it was really just a subtle attack in the MIT-Harvard rivalry?

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.