October 11, 2016

October 11, 2016 | Commentary on Health Care, Obamacare

Obamacare — It’s the Costs, Stupid!

President Obama says that Obamacare is a “success,” but has “real problems.”

Hillary Clinton also says that Obamacare is a success, but needs “fixing.” Her prescription: create yet another government health plan — a “public option” — to enhance the competition.

Note that “competition” has not been enhanced by two other government insurance creations: the disappearing co-op plans and the lackluster multi-state plans administered by the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that runs the federal civil service.

Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, recently described Obamacare as “the craziest thing in the world.” Great timing.

The Obama administration and its allies say Obamacare is a success largely because more than 20 million people are newly enrolled in heavily subsidized coverage or Medicaid, a welfare program. But polls show most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare. That’s not surprising, for it has failed to deliver on what they value most: controlling cost. Expanded insurance coverage is a desirable, but secondary, consideration.

At the inception of the debate, President Obama repeatedly said that his plan would reduce the typical family’s premium by $2,500 per year. Not for the middle class. As Bill Clinton reminds us, these folks “are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”

Look at the pattern. In 2014, the first year Americans enrolled in the exchanges, premiums jumped skyward in the individual market, far beyond what most Americans anticipated. For 27-year-olds, for example, premiums in 11 states more than doubled. Following that initial rate shock, in 2015 premium growth declined, with an average national increase of 5.3 percent.

In 2016, rate increases were projected to average 12 percent in the exchanges, but The Heritage Foundation estimates that the premiums will average at least 14 percent. And for 2017, based on the incoming exchange data, Heritage forecasts a national average increase of between 22 percent and 25 percent.

For deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, exchange enrollees were treated to shock and awe. In 2015, about 90 percent of enrollees signed up for either “silver plans,” with an average deductible of $2,500, or “bronze” plans with deductibles exceeding $5,300.

The president and his congressional allies promised Americans a great deal. Not surprisingly, they have a difficult time getting past personal disappointments and political deceptions: being able to keep their health plans, for example. Or maintaining their relationships with their doctors. Or saving $2,500 annually on their premiums.

Now, the latest list of liberal remedies for an ailing Obamacare is pretty much the same old stuff: more spending and more regulation. As taxpayers, Americans will be expected to pony up more dollars; bankroll the big insurance companies that are struggling because of their bad business decisions or the government’s bad policy decisions; or “invest” (translation: “spend” ) in another new government health plan — “a robust public option” — that will ensure real “competition” in the deteriorating health insurance exchanges.

Then, they say, Obamacare will get better.

No, it won’t. Politicians who’ve incurred a credibility deficit cannot solve the mess they created by a surplus of promises.

America needs new thinking and a new direction in health policy — a system that will empower individuals, families and businesses with direct control over their health-care dollars and decisions.

About the Author

Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. Senior Fellow
Center for Health Policy Studies

Related Issues: Health Care, Obamacare

First Appeared on Inside Sources