By Grace-Marie Turner
President Obama is bragging that the administration has surpassed its target of 7 million people enrolled in the ObamaCare exchanges, but he isn’t talking about the millions of people who are being harmed so the insurance-salesman-in-chief could make his numbers.
Millions of people have been driven into the ObamaCare exchanges and out of private coverage they liked. Most are facing higher premiums, higher co-payments, and sky-high deductibles. And Americans 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.
We learned yesterday that even the three television networks couldn’t tolerate the president’s dance in the end zone, denying a request that they air a victory speech in prime time.
Since at least six million people lost their individual private plans – and the doctors and hospitals they liked – because of ObamaCare, the enrollment numbers are nothing to boast about.
The 7 million number came 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. Only about one-third of those enrolling in the exchanges were previously uninsured, based upon a yet-unpublished but reported study by the RAND Corporation.
An estimated 86% of those enrolled in the exchanges who previously had insurance have paid their premiums. But the story is different for the remainder of enrollees who had been uninsured. Only about half of them are expected to pay their premium and therefore will be officially enrolled.
The Medicaid enrollment numbers also are being inflated. The Obama administration on Friday said an additional three million people had enrolled in the expanded Medicaid health insurance programs for the poor.
But the Washington Post Fact Checker smacked down an earlier claim that 3.9 million people were enrolled in Medicaid as a result of the ACA. “Bottom line: This number tells you almost nothing about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting Medicaid enrollment. Reporters need to stop using it,” the Fact Checker said.
And what does this say about an administration bragging that more people now are on a welfare program, enrolled in the worst, most dysfunctional, most wasteful (and that’s saying something) health care program in the country.
Further, the White House also boasts that three million young people are insured because of ObamaCare but this number also is false. Avik Roy writes:
If you give Obamacare credit for the entire difference in the trend between 25-34 year olds and 18-24 year-olds, since 2008, you get to a coverage expansion of between 889,000 young adults (on a 2008 population base) and 931,000 (on a 2012 population base). Again, that’s not nothing, but it’s far from the 3 million cited by Obamacare partisans.
When accurate numbers are finally totaled, it is likely that an additional 1 to 2 million people will have private health insurance as a result of ObamaCare, based upon projections of enrollment and payment of the premiums.
Reason columnist Shikha Dalmiat breaks down the actual numbers and concludes:
So, to recap: Obamacare has extended coverage to a far smaller portion of the uninsured than expected, caused millions of others to lose coverage, raised out-of-pocket costs for many middle-income consumers, diminished patient choice of doctors and hospitals and exposed Americans to future premium hikes.
This is why Americans are not popping the cork. Nor should the administration.
Expanding access to coverage is a worthy goal, but it could have been accomplished with so much less disruption if Congress had targeted that specific problem rather than trying to swallow one-sixth of the economy in one gulp.
Lowering health costs was always a primary goal of health reform. Avik and his colleagues at the Manhattan Institute have found that exchange plans cost on average 41% more than the private plans people had before.
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 both higher costs and narrower provider networks and deductibles of several thousand dollars that can dramatically increase their out-of-pocket costs.
An estimated 80% of those enrolled in exchange coverage are receiving taxpayer subsidies. 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 ObamaCare, while seniors are threatened with dramatic cuts to Medicare to help foot the bill. This massive shell game doesn’t reduce costs; it only shifts and increases them.
Insurers say double-digit increases in premiums are likely in the exchanges next year. Small businesses are facing a doubling or even tripling of their health insurance costs to comply with the new ObamaCare benefit mandates regulations. 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.
What’s next? There was, and continues to be, bi-partisan support in Congress for legislation to expand access to coverage by providing subsidies for those who needed insurance and can’t afford it, make health insurance more secure so people who have coverage don’t lose it, help those with pre-existing conditions, and allow states to reform the abysmal Medicaid program so that it provides actual access to physicians for recipients.
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 Republicans should unite behind principles and explain their vision for reform to begin to chart the path for their legislative agenda to get to the right health reform moving forward.
An earlier version of this article was published on The Corner at National Review Online.
Published on Forbes, April 4, 2014