Bloomberg reports this week on the latest Obamacare trend sweeping across the country: Cities and states may soon attempt to unload unsustainable health costs on the federal government by dumping employees and retirees onto exchanges.
Both Chicago and Detroit have explored using the exchanges to reduce massive budget shortfalls, and it could set an example for others. Bloomberg quotes one expert from the Rockefeller Institute of Government: “We can expect other cities to pick up on this.… I expect [employee dumping] to mushroom.”
The incentives for cities—or even states—to dump their workers onto exchanges are significant. Bloomberg notes that reducing retiree health costs could save Detroit approximately $150 million per year—at a time when the city faces a $386 million budget deficit and $17 billion in long-term debt.
Of course, these budgetary maneuvers aren’t really “savings”—they merely represent a shift of unsustainable costs from cities and states onto the backs of federal taxpayers. If more individuals than expected—particularly retirees, who are likely to be older and sicker than the population as a whole—require federal exchange subsidies, the cost of Obamacare could rise by trillions. And if cities and even states set an example by dumping their health care obligations on the federal government, private-sector employers could well follow suit.
The spokesman for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel called the city’s retiree health system “fiscally unsustainable,” but merely shifting that responsibility to Washington may be about as effective as moving deck chairs on a budgetary Titanic.
Meanwhile, like other Americans losing their coverage due to Obamacare, retirees themselves appear none too keen on getting dumped onto the exchanges. Bloomberg quotes one retired Detroit police officer expressing his outrage:
Imagine if they said tomorrow your Social Security, your Medicare is going away and you’re going on Obamacare.… How would you feel?
Many Americans may soon find out.