To Fix Health Care, Stop Defending Obamacare

If there was any doubt that the Affordable Care Act has utterly failed, a new study by the Commonwealth Fund should put it to rest.

According to the report, Americans are more likely to forgo necessary care because of financial concerns and to struggle with their health bills than their peers in 10 other high-income nations.

These are exactly the kinds of bleak scenarios Obamacare was supposed to prevent. Six years after its passage, the law hasn’t come through on its promise. Thankfully, Congress finally has a president with whom it can work to repeal and replace the law. They should do so swiftly — for the sake of all those Americans still straining to afford care.

But the study’s authors say that the law didn’t go far enough. As they explain, “although the ACA extended health insurance to more than 20 million Americans, there are still approximately 28 million uninsured

Commonwealth fails to note that many of those uninsured Americans would still find it difficult to pay for care even if they had secured coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges. In 2016, half of exchange enrollees had to cut back on health care because of costs, according to a recent survey from marketing research organization GfK.

The situation will only worsen in 2017, when exchange premiums will rise by an average of 22 percent.

Supporters of Obamacare are quick to point out that those increases are manageable for the millions of Americans who qualify for federal premium subsidies. But those subsidies do nothing to help beneficiaries cover most exchange plans’ outrageously high deductibles.

Next year, the average deductible for an individual bronze-level plan — the least comprehensive on the exchanges — will exceed $6,000. For family plans, the average deductible will be more than $12,000.

So while Obamacare may have increased the number of Americans with health insurance, it hasn’t made health care more affordable.

Remarkably, the Commonwealth study also suggests that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, is part of the solution to America’s health woes.

But even though state and federal governments spend more than $530 billion on Medicaid each year, the program has little impact on the actual health of patients. One landmark study comparing Oregon Medicaid enrollees to a control group of non-enrollees found that Medicaid “generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes.”

The researchers at the Commonwealth Fund have made the same mistake that got America’s health system into its current mess — idealizing “universal coverage.” But health insurance isn’t worth much if those who have it still can’t afford actual health care.

Our nation’s health care reform efforts should aim to provide high-quality health care that is accessible and affordable. By that measure, Obamacare is a failure. Those who oppose repealing and replacing it are arguing against the facts.

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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