Killing our choices – Pacific Research Institute

Killing our choices

Obamacare is under siege in the courts. Monday, federal Judge Henry Hudson announced that he’d rule on Virginia’s constitutional challenge to the health law before year’s end. That on the heels of another federal ruling, by Judge Roger Vinson, that 20 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses can proceed in a separate joint action to overturn key provisions in the president’s “reform.”

But the law is already doing damage. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Americans have discovered that, thanks to ObamaCare, they’re going to lose their existing health coverage. Unless lawmakers or the courts stop this juggernaut in its tracks, millions more will join them.

Understand: For all President Obama’s promises to the contrary, a key purpose of his reforms is to reduce our choices.

The first casualties are regional insurers.

The Principal Financial Group, an Iowa-based financial-services company, announced last month that it would stop offering health insurance because of the Obama changes. As a result, some 840,000 consumers will lose their coverage.

Over the summer, NHealth, a Virginia-based insurer that specialized in consumer-directed health plans, announced it was closing due to the “new demands imposed by national health-care reforms.”

These smaller players are naturally the first to drop out of the market: They don’t have the economies of scale to comply with new federal dictates, especially the proposed “minimum medical-loss ratio” rules, which force insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical claims in the individual and small-group markets and 85 percent in the large-group market.

But larger insurers are getting crushed, too. Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth and Anthem have started dropping policy options because of rules set by the Health and Human Services secretary and the law — forcing consumers out of plans they chose, and into ones that don’t meet their needs.

ObamaCare also threatens the coverage of hundreds of thousands of part-time and low-income workers. The federal government has granted one-year waivers to at least 30 companies like McDonald’s, who’d otherwise have to drop policies they now offer — but that only delays the crisis, it doesn’t solve it.

And that won’t fix the problem. The average yearly cost of a conventional employer-sponsored insurance policy is nearly $5,000, and family policies cost about twice that. Many McDonald’s employees make less than $20,000. If the company had to effectively raise every worker’s salary by 25 to 50 percent to comply with ObamaCare, it would go out of business overnight.

Seniors are seeing their options shrink, too. Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is ending its Medicare Advantage plans at year’s end — thanks to ObamaCare’s cuts in the program. Some 22,000 people in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire will have to find new coverage.

Limiting competition is at the heart of ObamaCare. The law’s highly touted “insurance exchanges” are meant to serve as a regulated marketplace where consumers can shop for policies that have received a government stamp of approval. But to get that stamp, health plans must comply with mandates governing everything from what procedures must be covered to the level of cost sharing.

As a result, consumers shopping in the exchanges will effectively have four choices: plans deemed platinum, gold, silver or bronze (and even those will vary only by whether you pay more in premiums or in co-pays). Fewer choices combined with burdensome mandates will yield higher prices for consumers.

Shockingly, ObamaCare’s supporters want to kill choice. As Judy Solomon of the Obama-friendly Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has said, in order to be effective, “the exchanges should limit the number and variety of plans.”

The president’s health-reform law is almost seven months old, and it’s already threatening thousands of Americans’ ability to access affordable health insurance.

Whether in the courts or at the polls, the country’s march toward ObamaCare must be stopped.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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