By Grace-Marie Turner
President Obama is bragging that the administration reached its target of 7 million people enrolled in the ObamaCare exchanges, but our insurance-salesman-in-chief has a callous definition of success.
Millions of people have been driven into the ObamaCare exchanges and out of private coverage they liked so the president could “make his numbers.” Most are facing higher premiums, higher co-payments, and sky-high deductibles. And we are footing the bill for the $2.6 trillion law that was supposed to get us to near-universal coverage and make health care more affordable but which will do neither.
So the president may brag and highlight the people who have been helped, but millions of people are being harmed and are being ignored in the celebration.
The 7 million number comes from an early Congressional Budget Office estimate. The CBO needed to calculate how many people it believed would gain private health insurance in the exchanges in the first year and therefore what the cost of the taxpayer subsidies would be. The CBO also assumed that the majority of those in the exchanges would come from the ranks of the uninsured.
But, as we now know, as many as two-thirds of those buying coverage in the exchanges were driven out of their private plans because they didn’t comply with the mountain of ObamaCare mandates.
At least six million people lost their individual private plans – and the doctors and hospitals they liked – because of ObamaCare, and the exchange plans they are enrolling in now cost on average 41% more.
Yes, the policies cover more benefits (many of which people say they don’t want or need). But those in the Bronze and Silver plans are facing narrower provider networks and deductibles of several thousand dollars that can dramatically increase their out-of-pocket costs.
And yes, an estimated 80% now are receiving taxpayer subsidies in the exchanges. But the subsidies aren’t free. Taxpayers are on the hook for at least $1 trillion in new and higher taxes – 20 of them in all – to pay for Medicaid and exchange coverage, while seniors are threatened with dramatic cuts to Medicare to help pay for ObamaCare.
Insurers say double-digit increases in premiums are likely next year in the exchanges. Small businesses are facing a doubling or even tripling of their health insurance costs to comply with the new ObamaCare regulations and mandates. And larger companies are restructuring their health benefit plans to increase premiums and deductibles for their employees to get ready for new ObamaCare taxes yet to come.
Former speaker Nancy Pelosi insists we should call the law the “affordable” care act – it’s “affordable, affordable, affordable, affordable…” But the president’s promise that the average family would save $2,500 a year on health costs if the law passed merits Four Pinocchios. Their costs are going up by at least that much.
And what about the promise of covering the uninsured?
An estimated one to two million people will be newly insured in the exchanges, based upon projections of enrollment and payment of the premiums.
About two-thirds of those enrolled in the exchanges were previously insured. An estimated 86% of them paid their premiums and are therefore enrolled. But the story is different for the remainder of enrollees who were previously uninsured. Only about half of them are paying the premium and therefore officially enrolled.
Getting health insurance to another 1 to 2 million people is a worthy goal, but it could have been accomplished with so much less disruption if the president had worked with members of Congress on a bi-partisan basis.
There would have been bi-partisan support for legislation to help those with pre-existing conditions, provide subsidies for those who needed insurance and couldn’t afford it, make health insurance more secure so people who have coverage don’t lose it, and allow states to reform the abysmal Medicaid program so that it provides actual access to physicians for recipients.
Now, liberals defend ObamaCare by saying that Republicans don’t have “a plan” so we might as well stick with ObamaCare. No, they don’t have a plan to turn one-sixth of our economy over to the government, disrupt coverage for tens of millions of people, drive up the cost of health insurance and health care, leave at least 30 million people without insurance and spend $2.6 trillion in the process. Conservatives do not have a plan to do this.
Which is why we should not expect or want a massive reform bill from Republicans and why we should follow Speaker Boehner’s lead in calling for a step-by-step approach to common sense health reform.
Posted on National Review Online: The Corner, April 2, 2014