A while back, President Obama stated he’d give his time as president a B+. His signature legislation, the Patient Protecion and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which most now simply call “Obamacare,” hasn’t done so well.
Today, MSNBC is ecstatically reporting that the number of uninsured Americans is down to 29 million people, from 51 million before the legislation was enacted. Adding health insurance coverage for 22 million people seems like a great success. That is, until one consideres that the legislation was supposed to add 32 million people to the health insurance rolls, a success rate of just 69%, or a D+ average at most schools.
The reality is that the Affordable Care Act isn’t good policy. Is it succeeding? Perhaps, but not surprisingly for a government program, at a lackluster pace. More people are getting insurance, but only at the expense of taxpayers and with coercive laws that force people to sign up or face a penalty. Billions of dollars are being borrowed to pay for it, and it can only barely be called a success by the most liberal of definitions. Lots of people didn’t get to keep their plan. Many people didn’t get to keep their doctor. Many millions of people who thought they were getting “free” health care found out they didn’t even qualify for subsidies, let alone “free” coverage.
Meanwhile, insurance plans continue to increase. The New York Times reported last month that insurers are seeking 20% to 40% increases in coverage premiums in most states. Blue Cross/Blue Sheild in Minnesota could increase by 54 percent in 2016.
The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.
Jesse Ellis O’Brien, a health advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, said: “Rate increases will be bigger in 2016 than they have been for years and years and will have a profound effect on consumers here. Some may start wondering if insurance is affordable or if it’s worth the money.”
As many who opposed the legislation predicted, the cost of coverage has skyrocketed. Regardless of why they previously didn’t buy insurance, more people were insured and so sought more doctor visits, more medical procedures and more medication than before. That demand dramatically increased overall coverage costs–the opposite of what was predicted by the Obama Administration and directly contributing to increased premiums at rates far in excess of the pre-Obamacre period. Again from The Times last month:
“Our enrollees generated 24 percent more claims than we thought they would when we set our 2014 rates,” said Nathan T. Johns, the chief financial officer of Arches Health Plan, which covers about one-fourth of the people who bought insurance through the federal exchange in Utah. As a result, the company said, it collected premiums of $39.7 million and had claims of $56.3 million in 2014. It has requested rate increases averaging 45 percent for 2016.
In financial statements filed with the government in the last two months, some insurers said that their claims payments totaled not just 80 percent [as required by law], but more than 100 percent of premiums. And that, they said, is unsustainable.
In short, the Affordable Care Act is failed policy. It doesn’t cover nearly as many people as was promised. Premiums and overall spending are skyrocketing, not declining. Insurers are conglomerating, reducing options instead of increasing them. Young people still aren’t buying insurance to subsidize older Americans.
Every prediction about the law from its proponents was wrong. Americans can argue over what policies might be better. Continuing to tout PPACA, the Obamacare law, as a success is simply ludicrous.