During last week’s vice presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris had a stern warning about the Trump administration’s healthcare agenda: “If you have a preexisting condition, they’re coming for you.”
In response, Vice President Mike Pence called Obamacare a “disaster” — and moved on. It was a missed opportunity to explain just how big a “disaster” the law has been.
Consider the lack of consumer choice on the Obamacare exchanges. Between 2015 and 2018, the average number of insurers per state was nearly cut in half. That figure has since crept up slightly. But exchange customers in more than 70% of counties still only have one or two insurers to choose from. Nearly three-quarters of the policies for sale on the exchanges limit patients to narrow provider networks.
The cost of coverage has surged, too. The average monthly premium for a benchmark exchange plan is $462 today — nearly 70% more than in 2014. The average deductible for a silver-level plan has risen about $2,000 since then, to more than $4,500.
For people who are ineligible for government subsidies, exchange plans are largely unaffordable. About 2.5 million unsubsidized patients dropped out of the exchanges between 2016 and 2018.
But at least the law is protecting those with preexisting conditions, right? Defenders of Obamacare like to claim that more than 100 million people have preexisting conditions and would be unable to secure affordable coverage without the law.
That’s fantasy. According to a report from the Obama White House, just 2.7% of non-elderly people living with preexisting conditions gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act. That’s about 3.6 million people.
There are far better ways to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can secure affordable coverage without hiking premiums for everyone else. Those include continuous coverage requirements and federally funded, state-based high-risk pools.
The Democratic ticket is trying to scare people into supporting the expansion of a law that’s made insurance coverage unaffordable for millions of people. Voters shouldn’t buy it.