As predictable as the sun rising in the east, Obamacare is failing
Forget the Supreme Court ruling that may gut it, the program is failing all on its own as it is unable to keep or deliver on any of its promises. Include with that the financial disaster it has become and you have the perfect vehicle for defining “a failure”:
ObamaCare’s supporters would like everyone to believe that with Healthcare.gov now functioning, everything is just fine and dandy. Contrary to what the conservative press (which I guess would include me) has been saying about the many problems of ObamaCare, Vox‘s Ezra Klein declared last September that “in the real world, it’s working.” In February, his fellow Voxland inhabitant Sarah Kliff rattled off eight ways in which the law had proved its critics wrong.
But has it? Not really.
For starters, the exchanges have enrolled about 3 million fewer people than the Congressional Budget Office projected in 2010. And far fewer of the enrollees are from the ranks of the uninsured than hoped. Medicaid enrollment is lower too, for the simple reason that states refused to expand the program.
Ezra Klein hasn’t visited the “real world” in years (Dale and I asked him once if he’d visited a VA hospital after he waxed enthusiastic about how good the VA was. Of course, he hadn’t). And, as expected, the government’s predictions, which were used to justify Obamacare, were woefully wrong. No surprise to some of us.
The core of President Obama’s sales pitch to America was that the program, which he called the Affordable Care Act, would “bend the health care cost curve” and save an average family $2,500 on their premiums each year. How would it accomplish this feat? Essentially, he said, by forcing uninsured “free loaders” who show up in the emergency room to obtain free care to either buy (subsidized) coverage on the insurance exchange or sign up for the expanded Medicaid program. The point was that if they had coverage, they’d get cheaper care sooner in a doctor’s office rather than more expensive care later in a hospital emergency room.
Things don’t seem to be working out that way. ObamaCare is indeed bending the cost curve — but up, not down.
In fact ER visits are up under Obamacare, not down (another supposed justification for the law). As for rates? They continue to go through the roof:
Every year, companies selling coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges have to ask state regulators to approve their premiums for the following year — a practice more appropriate for the Soviet Union than an allegedly free-market economy. And this year, according to several news reports, some are requesting increases of over 50 percent.
In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6 percent in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3 percent increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4 percent across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25 percent.
Some states are even higher.
The reason is called “economics”. It is a fairly simple concept to grasp. When you subsidize millions who don’t pay full price or any at all with the money those who do pay full price pay, the cost curve for those paying has nowhere to go but up. Surprise, that’s precisely what is happening, despite promises to the contrary (which we here knew were full of hot air when they were first uttered).
And there are more hikes on the horizon:
What’s more, these hikes are likely just a prelude to far bigger ones in future years. Why? Because two programs — risk corridor and reinsurance — that were meant to “stabilize” rates in ObamaCare’s first few years so that insurers could obtain the right mix of enrollees are set to expire next year. (The risk corridor program slaps a fee on insurance companies that have lower-than-expected medical losses, and compensates those that have more. The reinsurance program imposes a fee on insurance policies and funnels it to insurers with high-risk individuals.) With these programs gone, the challenge of maintaining a balanced risk pool will become even harder.
The expanded Medicaid program is no picture of robust health, either. It has produced no cost-saving decline in emergency room visits, nor has it contributed to hospital profitability, as was hoped.
What a freakin’ mess. So?
So, to recap: ObamaCare has fallen short of its enrollment target, hiked insurance premiums, failed to cut down on ER visits, and flopped in its attempt to improve hospitals’ bottom line.
But its real problem is the lawsuit? Maybe treatment for delusions is covered under ObamaCare!
Hey, like I said, some people think the VA system is the cat’s meow. There is no hope for them.