Obama’s Presidency: The True Hollywood Story (Part 4)

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If you read Part 1 of this multi-part post, then you know that I have been focusing my commentary on the following hot-topic issues of the 2016 election:
  • Crime (covered in Part 1)
  • The Economy, specifically jobs and unemployment (Part 3)
  • Debt and spending
  • Health insurance
  • Immigration (Part 2)
  • National Security
So far, I’ve reviewed Obama’s presidency records on crime, immigration, and the economy.  This post focuses on Health Insurance and, more specifically, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) better known as Obamacare.

Health Insurance

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Factcheck.org says that, as of January 2016, there were 15 million fewer people who lack health insurance since Obama took office.  This data is taken from the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first questions that come to my mind when I look at that statistic are: “What is the quality of that health insurance” and “At what cost?”
It has been 6 years since the inception of Obamacare.  Six years since President Obama said, “Every single good idea to bend the cost curve and start actually reducing health care costs [is] in this bill.”  The bill is over 900 pages long.  Perhaps they are having trouble finding those good ideas in the mountains of paper, because health care costs have increased substantially since ACA took effect and will continue to increase.
Despite countless adjustments to the Act through the years, Obamacare has continued to perform poorly in a number of vital areas, such as:
  • Increased costs for individuals, families, and businesses;
  • Resumption of excessive health care spending and middle-class taxation; and
  • A long series of managerial failures or unanticipated consequences.
And this doesn’t bode well considering the ACA was unpopular from the get-go.
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that total per capita health insurance spending will rise from $7,786 in 2016 to $11,681 in 2024.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that job-based premiums could increase by almost 60% between now and 2025.
Obamacare advocates will probably say, “Sure premiums have increased, but more people are insured.  And that’s the important thing.” The problem is that having insurance (the cost of the monthly premiums) isn’t the same as using insurance (the cost of deductibles). And deductibles have been increasing as well.  According to an article in the National Review, on average the outlay of deductibles now runs well into the thousands of dollars annually, severely limiting access to insurance patients can’t afford to use.  A report by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce calculated average deductibles in the 50 states.  Increases in deductibles are large, widespread and represent hundreds of dollars more that families will have to pay to simply access their health insurance coverage this year.
In total, 41 states saw average deductibles increase, with 17 states – representing 45 percent of the total exchange enrollment – seeing double-digit spikes.  The largest increases were in Mississippi (39%), Washington (31%), South Carolina (26%), Louisiana (24%), Florida (23%), Michigan and Vermont (22%), Arizona (21%), and North Carolina and Rhode Island (20%).  Only two states (New Mexico and Oklahoma) had double-digit declines.
Paying $3,000 or $5,600 (the average deductibles for the 2 most popular plans) before their insurance kicks in simply isn’t an option for most families. According to Heritage.org, today’s “typical” family already spends about 35% of their income for healthcare.
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What’s that? Oh, it’s another Obamacare defender saying, “Well costs wouldn’t be so high if it weren’t for those greedy insurance companies that are already rolling in dough.” Sorry, but you’ll have to find another scapegoat.  Many insurance companies are hemorrhaging cash on the exchanges.  The largest U.S. health insurance provider, UnitedHealth, recently announced losses of nearly $1 billion in 2015 and 2016 on plans sold via exchanges.  Other insurers, such as Aetna, have also lost significant sums.  To stop the financial losses, insurers are either pulling out of the exchanges completely (leaving consumers with few insurance options) or requesting bigger premium increases.  The largest insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60%. North Carolina’s largest insurer said it will seek an average increase of almost 20%.
That’s to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government’s financial backstop for insurance markets.
While millions of customers will be shielded from these price hikes through government subsidies (but remember these are just the premiums, not the deductibles), many consumers aren’t eligible for the income-based subsidies and get no such protection.  This includes business owners, self-employed people, and early retirees.  Under the law, most Americans are required to have health insurance or risk being fined.
Obamacare has allowed for major Medicaid expansion, which many of its defenders applaud.  However, only half of the Medicare accountable care organization (ACOs) have yielded savings.  And literature shows that Medicaid’s performance in care delivery is substandard.  Not only that, but the program is also under congressional scrutiny for the wrongful transmission of an estimated $750 million in taxpayer subsidies to illegal aliens!

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I could spend a great deal more time highlighting all the failings of Obamacare and its ripples effects. I haven’t even touched on the costs to the American taxpayer, which I’ll save for my post on Debt and Spending. But the bottom line is that this wonderful piece of legislation (insert sarcasm here) has:

  • Generated big and surprising out-of-pocket costs;
  • Caused insurance costs to continue rising, burdening businesses and families;
  • Reduced insurance competition (if you are new to economics, please note that competition actually drives costs down);
  • Had a negative impact on job growth;
  • Caused the overall cost curve to bend upward;
  • Imposed major tax increases on America’s middle class, and;
  • Threatened seniors’ future access to healthcare due to Medicare payment cuts.

The over 900-page long Affordable Care Act has regulations, instructions, and standards for pretty much every aspect of health care in the United States. The result is that virtually every major decision in the health care sector of the American economy is either made or constrained, directly or indirectly, by federal officials. Hello, Socialism!

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So to answer my initial questions, the quality of healthcare leaves something to be desired, which I can personally attest to, and the cost of the 15 million fewer people without health insurance is pretty darn high.  Especially since most Obamacare advocates focus on the 15 million number and conveniently leave out the fact that 10.8% of Americans are still living without health insurance (Gallup Poll) – a mere 4.8% drop from 2008 and two years before Obamacare was passed.  The majority of those uninsured are minorities, young adults and low-income Americans.  Additionally, 15.5% of respondents to the poll said that they had lacked the ability to pay for their health insurance (those pesky deductibles!) or necessary medications at some point in 2016.  And of those Americans with insurance, the number who say they are satisfied with the quality of their health care has dropped. 

Trump says that Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever.  Hillary says we can still fix it.  Hey Hillary, you can’t fix what never worked to begin with.  Once again, my vote goes to Trump.  

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