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How Obamacare Fails the Uninsured

The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare,” will begin selling insurance plans for the fourth year in a row this week.  The big question on everyone’s mind is: do people want Obamacare insurance? 

After all, the primary purpose of Obamacare is to provide affordable coverage to the uninsured. As President Obama said:

"We are not a nation that accepts nearly [47] million uninsured men, women and children.  We are not a nation that lets hardworking families go without coverage, or turns its back on those in need. We're a nation that cares for its citizens. We look out for one another. That's what makes us the United States of America. We need to get this done."

But despite Obama’s lofty promises, the healthcare law has come nowhere close to expanding coverage to the uninsured.  When Obamacare was signed into law in March of 2010, an estimated 47 million people lived day-to -day without coverage.  Today, there are still 27 million that are uninsured.

That’s a colossal failure, considering the intrusive and expensive lengths Obamacare goes to achieve its goal.  The healthcare law levees steep new taxes on individuals and families who don’t buy insurance.  In addition, it spends billions to help people pay for insurance.  It even transfers huge sums of taxpayer money to insurers to offset the cost of extremely expensive patients.

But after all these penalties, giveaways, and gimmicks, tens of millions of people refuse to buy what President Obama is selling.  According to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number one reason why the uninsured opt out of Obamacare’s coverage is because it is not affordable.

Obamacare contains a myriad of measures that actually make health insurance more expensive and less accessible for the people most likely to be uninsured.   For example, the law prohibits insurers from charging younger members less than 1/3 what they charge their oldest members.  This single measure effectively doubles the average premium young people pay since they use only 1/6 the healthcare older people consume.

The law also mandates that people buy health plans that cover a smorgasbord of expensive treatments and services known as “essential health benefits,” regardless of whether they’re needed or desired. These mandatory benefits include maternity care, newborn care, as well as pediatric vision and dental care, even if someone doesn’t have children.

These “essential benefits” increase premiums substantially.  A 2004 report by George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors estimated that mandated health benefits raise the cost of insurance by 0.4 percent per mandate for individuals, and 0.5 percent per mandate for families.

Even Johnathon Gruber, a healthcare economist from MIT and one of the intellectual architects of Obamacare, admitted in 2011 that the law’s mandates make it harder for people to buy insurance, saying, “[The Obama Administration] cannot both make the plans extremely generous, and also make them affordable so that they cover millions more Americans.  The goals contradict each other.”

As Gruber predicted, Obamacare’s mandates made insurance a lot more generous, and a lot less affordable. A report by the federal Department for Health and Human Services revealed that insurance premiums will rise 25 percent next year.  The typical patient looking for insurance in the Obamacare marketplaces will pay $302 per month for coverage, translating into $3,624 in annual premium costs in 2017. In Wyoming, patients will have to pay $4,956 for Obamacare’s coverage.  It’s no wonder most of the uninsured shirk Obamacare’s options. 

The President’s healthcare law ultimately failed because it assumed that everyone desires comprehensive, all-of-the-above coverage.  The reality is that there are 320 million patients in the United States with unique and diverse medical needs. Rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all model on health insurance, we should liberate patients to choose the best coverage that fits their health and budgetary needs.  Here’s hoping our leaders in 2017 and beyond appreciate this fact.  

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017
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