Obamacare turns five years old today. Unfortunately, it seems to age in dog years, the days lengthened by endless rounds of news reports and stories about its purported merits or demerits. .
The website doesn’t work, the SHOP exchange is delayed, the employer mandate is postponed, the long-term care insurance system is dismantled, premiums are rising, out of pocket costs are growing, it’s going to cost more than anticipated, you don’t get to keep your insurance if you like it, you don’t get to keep your doctor either, the thirty-hour workweek is causing problems, the website’s backend still isn’t finished, and you’ll probably have to pay the IRS because your subsidy is wrong.
And that’s just the lowlights. But despite it all President Obama has done his best to maintain his unflinching optimism that everything is fine.
“Every prediction they’ve made about it turned out to be wrong,” Obama said at an event last week in Cleveland. “It’s working better than even I expected. But it doesn’t matter. Evidence be damned, it’s still a disaster. Well, why?”
Where to we even begin to answer that question?
Because recent research from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that health insurance premiums were 24.4 percent higher than they would have been without Obamacare. Things weren’t much better this year. Estimates from the Obama administration showed that individual plans could see price increases of 20 percent or more.
Because even if premiums were affordable, out of pocket costs like deductibles are being pushed to insane levels. Recent studies from HealthPocket found that the average family in a bronze plan will have a $10,545 deductible. Those in silver plans face a deductible of $6,010. How many families can afford those types of medical costs before their insurance plan even kicks in?
Because insurance companies, sagging under the weight of government coverage mandates, are trying to find ways to keep insurance costs competitive and are coming up with bad answers. One of them are “ultra-narrow networks,” which purposefully exclude a large number of doctors and hospitals in order to negotiate the most favorable rates with those who remain in the plan. That means the doctor you had before may no longer be “in network,” thereby violating the president’s promise that people would keep their doctor.
Because rather than put up with this mess insurers are making the decision to flee the individual market, leaving less choice and less competition, which is driving insurance costs up and quality down. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that 1,232 carriers offered insurance coverage in the individual market in 2013. This year that number plummeted to a measly 310. That means that residents in one-third of all counties in the United States have an exchange market with only one or two participants.
Because Obamacare is taking a serious toll on the economy, especially small businesses. One recent analysis found that the health care law led employees at small businesses to see their take home pay collectively reduced by $22.6 billion. The Congressional Budget Office also reported that Obamacare would reduce the total number of hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time jobs in 2021. And the employer mandate, which requires firms to offer insurance to full-time employees, could soon exacerbate these trends. According to surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve, one-fifth of employers moved employees from full-time to part-time in an effort to avoid being subject to the employer-mandate.
Because despite all these negative trends Obamacare is still projected to cost us a fortune. The Senate Budget Committee, using numbers extrapolated from the Congressional Budget Office, found that the law’s initial 10-year projection of a $109 billion surplus has turned into a $131 billion deficit. And that’s just the deficit impact. The true cost, which includes all the new taxes, the cuts to Medicare rates, and the expansion of Medicaid, is measured in the trillions.
So yes Mr. President, the law is still a disaster. Which is why we’re mourning, not celebrating Obamacare’s birthday.