ObamaCare’s Unhappy 7th Birthday

As the GOP’s fractious debate over health care reform drags on, some Americans are beginning to look back on ObamaCare through rose-colored glasses. Although voters put in power on Nov. 8, 2016, a party committed to repealing and replacing ObamaCare, public approval for the health law just reached 54% — an all-time high.

But a sober assessment of ObamaCare’s brief history should be enough to cure anyone of nostalgia for the law.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has promised a vote on the American Health Care Act today — ObamaCare’s seventh anniversary — which includes a Manager’s Amendment to try to get more GOP votes. To commemorate the law’s unhappy birthday, here are seven of the many calamities ObamaCare has visited on American patients.

‘If You Like Your Plan … ‘

President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” was vital to selling ObamaCare to an unwilling public.

It was also deeply dishonest. Roughly 4 million Americans with policies that didn’t meet ObamaCare’s “essential health benefits” requirements had no hope of keeping their plans. Many were forced to leave their doctor, thanks to the limited provider networks of many ObamaCare exchange policies.

Website Breakdown

ObamaCare’s exchanges were supposed to make comparison shopping easy and provide instant checks on eligibility and subsidies.

In reality, they were a mess. Several state-run exchanges — including those in Oregon and Maryland — were plagued by major malfunctions from day one. Both of those states eventually adopted the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace instead.

Of course, HealthCare.gov was so dysfunctional in the beginning that many individuals were unable to sign up weeks after enrollment began. It proved to be a monument to government waste, too — costing over $2 billion.

Collapsing CO-OPs

In lieu of a “public option,” ObamaCare created government-subsidized nonprofit “CO-OPs” in 23 states to compete with private plans. Nineteen of them have gone bust. Their failure wasted $2.2 billion in taxpayer loans and forced nearly a million people to find new health plans.

Dwindling Choices

Insurers have been fleeing the marketplaces amid huge financial losses — especially in recent years. Humana just announced that it is dropping out of ObamaCare entirely next year. Aetna exited all but four exchanges this year, with CEO Mark Bertolini claiming that the exchanges are “in a death spiral.”

Defections like these are the reason that exchange enrollees in one-third of counties have only one insurance provider to choose from.

Not-So Affordable Care

ObamaCare was supposed to make double-digit premium increases a thing of the past. Instead, it made them a fixture of the insurance market.

Average premiums on bronze exchange plans jumped by 21% this year alone. Many states have suffered even more severe rate shocks. Average premiums for the second-cheapest silver exchange plan for a 27-year-old shot up 53% in Pennsylvania, 69% in Oklahoma, and 116% in Arizona.

Low Enrollment

As recently as 2015, the Congressional Budget Office projected that 25 million people would be getting their insurance through ObamaCare’s exchanges in 2017. Actual enrollment was roughly half that.

The young and healthy, who were supposed to comprise 40% of the individual market in order to make the exchanges financially viable, stayed away in droves, largely because the insurance on offer has been so expensive. That left the exchange pools far sicker and costlier than promised.

Medicaid For Most

ObamaCare’s partisans often celebrate the fact that the law drove the uninsured rate down to “record lows.” But almost all of that decline is the result of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of Americans with insurance rose by 14 million — nearly 12 million of whom gained coverage through Medicaid. Today, Medicaid covers more than 74 million people.

In other words, ObamaCare’s most touted accomplishment is moving millions of Americans in the 32 states (including the District of Columbia) that expanded Medicaid into a program whose “beneficiaries,” according to a recent study of Oregon patients, fare no better as far as health outcomes go — and visit the emergency room more often — than the uninsured.

Funneling more patients into Medicaid is nothing to brag about.

For Americans exasperated by the GOP’s repeal-and-replace efforts, it’s helpful to remember just how much harm ObamaCare has delivered to American patients in just seven short years.

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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