Obamacare’s 10th anniversary: A trillion dollars and nothing to show for it

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law a decade ago on March 23, 2010, promising an era of affordable healthcare. Instead, for the past decade, insurance premiums have skyrocketed while coverage options have declined.

Clearly, this anniversary is no cause for celebration.

Proponents of Obamacare point to increased rates of insurance coverage as proof the law achieved its goals. They fail to mention these gains were largely the result of Obamacare expanding Medicaid to cover nearly 15 million additional enrollees. They also leave out the fact that Medicaid expansion initially cost more than $6,300 per enrollee — and that the program has historically failed to improve the health of the previously uninsured.

Spending billions of taxpayer dollars to give people low-quality coverage is hardly an achievement.

Meanwhile, thanks to the law’s many rules and regulations, health insurance has become unaffordable for many of those who must pay for coverage on their own, without the benefit of taxpayer subsidies.

Obamacare requires insurers to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” including maternity and child care, even for people who didn’t need them. The law also forbids insurers from charging sick people more than healthy people or charging sicker, older enrollees any more than three times what they charge healthy, younger ones.

The result has been higher premiums. Today, the average monthly premium for a benchmark exchange plan is almost 70% higher than in 2014, when the law first took effect. Exchange plan deductibles have grown nearly 30% since Obamacare took effect. Today, someone with a typical low-cost exchange plan faces a $6,500 deductible.

Given these rising costs, it’s no wonder that more than 1 million people dropped out of the unsubsidized individual market in 2018, after 1.3 million dropped out the year prior.

Ten years and more than a trillion dollars later, it’s clear Obamacare has failed to deliver on its promises.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

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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