Defenders of Obamacare just got a nasty reality check. The law was supposed to help Americans improve their health by expanding access to coverage.
Yet almost seven years after Obamacare’s passage and three years after the exchanges opened for business, Americans’ health is deteriorating at an alarming rate, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With two exceptions, 2015 was the first year in which life expectancy dropped since World War II.
We can’t lay blame for this development entirely at the feet of Obamacare. But we can ask whether it’s worth spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on a health reform law that is, well, not doing all that much to improve Americans’ health.
In 2015, the second year in which only about 11 million Americans purchased insurance through one of Obamacare’s exchanges, mortality rates for eight of the 10 leading causes of death increased. Deaths from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease ticked up last year. Nearly three in 10 adults report having two or more chronic illnesses.
These trends come at a time when federal officials have spent billions of taxpayer dollars overhauling the health sector and subsidizing insurance. This year alone, the law’s insurance provisions cost taxpayers $110 billion. Over the next decade, absent repeal and replace, those components are expected to cost $1.4 trillion. One would expect all of this spending to have some positive effect on health outcomes, or at least prevent a significant decline in health.
But health insurance and health are hardly the same thing.
Thanks to the sky-high premiums and deductibles and limited networks of doctors and hospitals on Obamacare’s exchange plans, it’s difficult for many Americans to get the care they need to stay healthy. Half of Americans enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges avoided medical care this year in order to save money, according to a recent analysis from the market research firm GfK.
Obamacare may not have caused the downturn in Americans’ health, but it certainly hasn’t helped matters either. Repeal and replacement should result in improved outcomes in the future.