Obama’s Promise of Universal Coverage is Another Bust


Even the most ardent Democrat will admit that the rollout of Obamacare was not smooth. The website was a disaster, the rhetoric was misleading, the costs were too high, and the delays were too frequent. But they nevertheless stood patiently by because one pillar of the law’s promise remained intact: Expanded coverage.

Indeed, the president sought to set aside nearly every other justification – the promise of reduce costs, doctor choice and bending the medical cost-curve – to singularly focus on the importance of expanding coverage in a December speech on the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe we’re a better country than a where we allow, every day, 14,000 Americans to lose their health coverage, or where every year, tens of thousands of Americans died because they didn’t have health care,” the president said. “We thought we were better than that, and that’s why we took this on.”

To Obama’s credit we should be better than that. The drive to expand health insurance coverage is not a Democrat or a Republican mission. It is, or should be, a uniting goal. As Avik Roy writes in the Washington Examiner:

They have to agree that universal coverage is a morally worthy goal. No conservative politicians oppose universal public education; instead, we champion reforms that improve the quality of public education that poor Americans receive. Ensuring that every American has access to quality health coverage is a legitimate goal of public policy, and it can be done in a way that expands freedom and reduces the burden on American taxpayers.

The key difference is how we would achieve that goal. Republicans believe in expanding market-based competition and options to reduce costs and increase affordability. Democrats believe that the federal government should use price controls and subsidy schemes to expand coverage. And because the Left dominated the health policy conversation for far too long, the United States is now spending trillions on health care through entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and now, Obamacare.

But if the past few decades have taught us anything it is that a large government presence has distorted the market and inflated the cost of health care to the point where insurance has become unaffordable. In other words, Democrats are stepping on their own toes.

Contrary to Democrat’s arguments and President Obama’s insistence, Obamacare doesn’t appear capable of fixing that problem. Christopher Weave and Anna Mathews report for the Wall Street Journal:

Only 11% of consumers who bought new coverage under the law were previously uninsured, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey of consumers thought to be eligible for the health-law marketplaces. The result is based on a sampling of 4,563 consumers performed between November and January, of whom 389 had enrolled in new insurance.

One reason for people declining to purchase plans was affordability. That was cited by 52% of those who had shopped for a new plan but not purchased one in McKinsey’s most recent sampling, performed in January. Another common problem was technical challenges in buying the plans, which 30% mentioned.

Things aren’t any better on the Medicaid front either. Although the White House said earlier this month that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion was responsible for 4 million people gaining coverage, that number has since been debunked. The actual number, according to Sean Trende who ran the numbers, may actually be closer to around 190,000. The Washington Post Fact Checker even went back and said that the Obama Administration’s Medicaid claims were “ridiculous” and that “reporters need to be very careful about using the new figure.”

Taken together these figures show that Obamacare has been completely unsuccessful at making any sort of meaningful dent in the uninsured. Chalk this up to another failed Obamacare promise. Hopefully its demise leads to a real conversation about how to increase health care coverage. And hopefully conservatives will bring forth their ideas.