June 12, 2015 | Commentary on Health Care, Obamacare, Health Care Reform

The Fantasy That ObamaCare 'Is Working'

[ObamaCare] is working…We haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them have come to pass. You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance.

It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance. The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance…

The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost. Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years. None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.

Barack Obama, June 8, 2015

Sometimes it seems President Obama lives in a parallel universe where facts are floating around to be plucked out of suspended animation. Never more so than on the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

So let’s see whether anything he says on the new law, including that it “is working,” comports with the facts:

● No “adverse effect on people who already had health insurance.”

In 2013, as Obamacare’s policies were phasing in, nearly 5 million policyholders across 31 states and the District of Columbia were notified that their current coverage was being discontinued. This doesn’t include nearly 20 states that weren’t tracking these numbers so the total could have been several million more. In California alone, 1.1 million policies were canceled.

In March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that Obamacare will result in a total of 1 million fewer people enrolled in employment-based coverage in 2015, increasing to 8 million fewer enrolled in employment-based covered by 2018. That’s a lot of people who haven’t been able to keep the health insurance that they like.

● “The overwhelming majority of people are satisfied” with the new law.

Real Clear Politics has reviewed the major polling results on ObamaCare over the last two months. It finds that the average result is that 43% of Americans support the law and 53% oppose it. A May Gallup poll found more than twice as many respondents (24%) say the law has hurt their families than say it has helped them (10%). Most say it has made no difference. This sounds a lot more like dissatisfaction with the new law.

● “Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years.”

Oh really. The costs to Americans for health insurance in the new ObamaCare era are soaring across the country. The latest numbers for premium increases show the following dismal news for families. In California, approved rate increases going into effect this year are running up an average of about 10%, or five times the rate of inflation (which actually turned negative in the most recent 12 months). In Florida, 33 of 36 approved rate hikes were greater than 10%.

Next year might be even worse. In Ohio, the average rate increase request for 2016 is 17.8% as of June 9, 2015. In Virginia, the AETNA Life Insurance Company small group plan proposed an increase of 59.71%. In Texas, more than half of the rate hike request are greater than 20%. In Illinois, the popular Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Individual plan wants a 38% rate hike. Numerous other plans costs will rise by 50%.

● “We haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them have come to pass.”

President Obama must not listen to young people. An analysis by my colleagues Ed Haislmaier and Drew Gonshorowski at The Heritage Foundation finds that removing ObamaCare regulations for those in their early 20s would lower health insurance by 44%. Much of this cost differential stems directly from the arbitrary ObamaCare mandate that age related variations in health care premiums not exceed a ration of 3:1. That part of the law alone increased premiums for young adults by one-third. The typical 21 year old would save about $1,100 in premiums by jettisoning the regulations.

Make no mistake. The new health law has disrupted coverage for millions, and driven up costs for millions more.

● “The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost.”

Well let’s look at the government’s costs for health care. The CBO’s budget estimates of ObamaCare’s net costs from 2015-2019 have decreased by 29% since the March 2015 projections. However, the latest statistics from the federal government show that ObamaCare costs for the Medicaid expansion and the taxpayer subsidized exchanges will rise from about $35 billion last year, to $77 billion this fiscal year, and to an expected $116 billion in 2016. So in three years ObamaCare outlays will have tripled. Only in Washington would this be considered controlling costs.

The future of the ObamaCare law hangs by a thread, based both on the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of subsidies provided for coverage purchased on federally established exchanges. If these exchange subsidies are invalidated, Republicans need to prove to voters they can provide much better quality of care, with much more choices, and to more Americans, and in a way that doesn’t bankrupt the country. Given the fiasco of Obamacare, that shouldn’t be hard.

- Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a Forbes contributor.

This article originally appeared in Forbes. The original piece can be found at http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevemoore/2015/06/12/the-fantasy-that-obamacare-is-working/.

About the Author

Stephen Moore Distinguished Visiting Fellow
Project for Economic Growth