The broken promises of Obamacare


Jean Morrow - The Heritage Foundation



Republican members of Congress planning to repeal and replace Obamacare have been hosting town hall meetings with constituents and have been greeted by largely hostile crowds.

These protestors seem to have forgotten about Obamacare’s glaring failures. For those in need of a reminder, here are four of the program’s biggest problems:

COSTS ARE EXPLODING

President Barack Obama promised that his health care reform proposal would cut typical family costs by $2,500 annually. That, of course, never materialized.

The typical family today puts about 35 percent of their income toward health care.

The small group and individual insurance markets have been hit hard by big premium increases. An eHealth report concluded that from 2013 to 2017, individual market premium increases were, on average, 99 percent for individuals and a jaw-dropping 140 percent for families.

Costs have also increased for those with employer-sponsored insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, from 2010 to 2016, average family premiums for employer-sponsored plans increased nearly 32 percent.

Higher premiums are not the only shock. Out-of-pocket costs in the Obamacare exchanges, particularly deductibles, have been stunning. HealthPocket found that for the lowest tier bronze plans in 2017, the average deductible for an individual is $6,092 and $12,383 for a family.

COMPETITION AND CHOICE ARE DECLINING

Obama told America his proposal would increase competition in the health insurance markets, but that hasn’t happened either.

News recently broke that Humana will be leaving the Obamacare exchange markets next year. Humana is just the latest in a growing list of insurers who are jumping ship from this massive public policy failure.

Town hall audiences should take a good look at county-level data. A new Heritage Foundation analysis found that Obamacare’s exchanges, in their fourth year of operation, offer Americans little health insurer choice.

The downward slide in competition means that in 2017, consumers in 70 percent of U.S. counties are left with just one or two insurer options on the exchanges. The 70 percent figure is way up from 36 percent in 2016.

FORGET ABOUT KEEPING YOUR PLAN

Perhaps the most famous health care promise of all was Obama’s pledge: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.” In fact, there were 37 instances where Obama or a high-ranking administration official repeated that infamous promise.

Rarely has there been such a disconnect between rhetoric and reality. In 2014, the first year that Obamacare was fully implemented, the Associated Press reported that there were at least 4.7 million canceled policies across 30 states. The law’s insurance rules and mandates forced many insurers to cancel plans that people liked and wanted.

Sadly, the disruption only continued from there. For example, hundreds of thousands of people signed up for plans offered by insurers under Obamacare’s co-op program.

But 18 out of 23 of these federally funded insurers have already collapsed, meaning taxpayers are highly unlikely to be repaid the more than $1.9 billion in loans they received — not to mention the thousands of co-op enrollees that lost their health care plans, some in the middle of the year.

Not exactly a proud moment in public policy.

NO, YOU CAN’T NECESSARILY KEEP YOUR DOCTOR

Obama promised patients that they would be able to keep their doctors. For many patients, that also turned out to be untrue.

Obamacare’s rising costs, and its limited flexibility in federally fixed benefit designs, resulted in plans resorting to narrow provider networks. Narrow networks limit access to doctors and other medical professionals as a way to contain costs.

Enough is enough. For seven years, Obamacare has proved to be one giant bundle of broken promises and policy failures. Congress needs to get serious — quickly — and repeal Obamacare.

This is a crucial first step in moving America toward the patient-centered health care system our country deserves.

Jean Morrow

The Heritage Foundation

Jean Morrow is a research assistant for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., 20002; Website: www.heritage.org. Information about Heritage’s funding may be found at http://www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm.

Jean Morrow is a research assistant for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., 20002; Website: www.heritage.org. Information about Heritage’s funding may be found at http://www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm.