Will ObamaCare leave us with more people uninsured?
Whatever else ObamaCare was supposed to do, one of its core missions was to reduce the number of uninsured Americans. Since the new spin from the Administration is that its busted website was only an incidental side benefit, let us pause to remember that on the contrary, Healthcare.gov and those allegedly easy-to-use exchanges were presented to American voters as a crucial key element of the program. If you review any of the expensive ObamaCare propaganda directed at young people – any of the celebrity-endorsement stuff – you will find very little but the website touted as an essential benefit of the program.
The ostensibly swift and easy-to-use website was part of the ObamaCare mission to increase insurance enrollment. It was thought that many people who didn’t get insurance through their employers were unaware of the plans available in the individual market, having accepted a sort of “no job, no insurance” status quo, particularly among lower-income people. ObamaCare was going to change all that, by lowering insurance premiums and giving people an easy one-stop supermarket, where they could discover the range of affordable options available to them and make a purchase.
Stop laughing! That’s the way it was sold to the American people, and presumably a large portion of Obama voters believed it. I have yet to see any great level of anger erupting from them over the realization they were lied to, and what they actually got was a bunch of rich Obama cronies tucking taxpayer millions into their wallets, leaving a steaming pile of unusable website garbage that will cost countless millions more to fix, if it can be fixed at all. Maybe they’re still in shock from discovering just how much that “affordable” care is going to cost them, especially if they get sick and have to pay the sky-high deductibles.
For at least a year now, we’ve been seeing projections from government agencies that even if it had launched properly, ObamaCare wouldn’t actually change the number of uninsured all that much. Defining the “uninsured” has always been an exercise in political art, since a lot of them are people who voluntarily choose not to purchase insurance… but, again, ObamaCare’s welfare subsidies and slick website, plus the threat of the individual mandate – a special tax levied against people who choose not to buy a product from government-approved private corporations – was supposed to entice them into getting insurance. Long-term projections showed the trillions spent on ObamaCare would, in fact, produce only a modest reduction in the ranks of the uninsured, leaving tens of millions of them after ten years.
But now that this Debt Star has become fully armed and operational, the situation looks even worse. On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) predicted that by the end of October, more people will have lost insurance because of ObamaCare than signed up for new policies. The Washington Times reports that “the early numbers may back him up.”
Kaiser Health News reported this week that hundreds of thousands of Americans have received notices from their insurers canceling their policies: 300,000 from Florida Blue and 160,000 from Kaiser Permanente in California.
One industry analyst told Kaiser Health News the moves may be a way of insurers ridding their own rolls of costly consumers they don’t want, and pushing those people onto the federal health exchanges.
“When you begin to look at these hundreds of thousands of people, I think what you’re going to see at the end of October are more Americans are going to lose their health insurance than are going to sign up at these exchanges,” the Ohio Republican told reporters.
At the moment, there’s no way to be sure, because the total of enrollees and insurance buyers are secrets studiously kept from the American people by the Administration, which has been passing around ridiculous stories about their system being unable to produce the sort of totals that a kid using Microsoft Excel to run his lemonade stand could generate on demand. Keep in mind that not every “enrollee” is going to buy an insurance policy, so we might end up squeezing the number of enrollments out of the Most Transparent Administration In History before they’re willing to admit how many actual policies have been sold.
A lot of the people who have actually managed to register through the broken ObamaCare system are getting directed into Medicaid, which is not “insurance” in the sense Obama meant it when he was promising everyone the number of uninsured would go down. And we’re already heard many stories of people running for the hills when they got a load of ObamaCare prices. Not many people have even been able to get that far into the system yet. It’s very likely that Speaker Boehner’s prediction will be accurate, and it will probably be true at the end of the year, too.
The Kaiser Health News report cited by the Washington Times labors to put a happy face on the situation, suggesting that the quality of the new mandate-crazed ObamaCare plans will be higher than the old, affordable programs it’s killing off, but is unable to ignore the sea of sad faces out there. In addition to the gigantic wave of cancellations from Florida Blue and Kaiser Permanente in California, Kaiser mentions that “Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.”
And Blue Shield of California sent out 119,000 cancellations, a whopping 60 percent of its total business. All by themselves, the cancellations mentioned by Kaiser Health News are pushing a million people, and that’s by no means a comprehensive roster of canceled policies. There is no way ObamaCare is going to sell a million insurance policies by the end of October, and probably not by the end of the year. And there’s more bad news to come, as Forbes mentions large-scale cancellations either about to begin, or already under way, in North Carolina, Illinois, and Nebraska.
A few comments from consumers who were “shocked in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them” are included in the report:
“I don’t feel like I need to change, but I have to,” said Jeff Learned, a television editor in Los Angeles, who must find a new plan for his teenage daughter, who has a health condition that has required multiple surgeries.
[...] Kris Malean, 56, lives outside Seattle, and has a health policy that costs $390 a month with a $2,500 deductible and a $10,000 in potential out-of-pocket costs for such things as doctor visits, drug costs or hospital care.
As a replacement, Regence BlueShield is offering her a plan for $79 more a month with a deductible twice as large as what she pays now, but which limits her potential out-of-pocket costs to $6,250 a year, including the deductible.
“My impression was …there would be a lot more choice, driving some of the rates down,” said Malean, who does not believe she is eligible for a subsidy.
The latest exercise in finger-pointing – which is going to become America’s official national sport, thanks to ObamaCare – blames insurance companies for taking advantage of Affordable Care Act chaos to dump customers they didn’t really want anyway. Company representatives deny this accusation, insisting they are doing their best to retain these displaced clients by offering them new Obama-approved policies… which are often much more expensive, thanks to mandated benefits the customer might not really be interested in.
I very much doubt that any of these insurance providers want to lose half, or more, of their customers, even if some of them weren’t especially profitable. And if the Affordable Care Act does provide some flinty-eyed corporate executives a chance to purge liabilities from their balance sheets, an opening they somehow lacked before the law went into effect… that’s the fault of the people who wrote the law, and famously passed it without reading it, not the private companies who are complying with it.
Regence spokeswoman Rachelle Cunningham said the new plans offer consumers broader benefits, which “in many cases translate into higher costs.”
“The arithmetic is inescapable,” said Patrick Johnston, chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Plans. Costs must be spread, so while some consumers will see their premiums drop, others will pay more — “no matter what people in Washington say.”
Health insurance experts say new prices will vary and much depends on where a person lives, their age and the type of policy they decide to buy. Some, including young people and those with skimpy or high-deductible plans, may see an increase. Others, including those with health problems or who buy coverage with higher deductibles than they have now, may see lower premiums.
There’s the rub. The stated mission of ObamaCare – a key component of its moral argument – was the urgent need to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. That goal is not compatible with mandates that raise the cost of insurance and force people to purchase coverage they don’t need, but the arrogance at the heart of Big Government takeovers is the conviction that ordinary people don’t really know what they need.
And what good is increased “coverage” if the plans come with gigantic deductibles and co-payments that render them virtually useless in practice? We all know what’s going to happen in the years ahead, as low-income people trudge to their doctors, slap down their ObamaCare insurance cards… and get handed a bill for $6000 or more, in some cases double that amount, because of their deductibles. They’ll cry out in confusion and despair, wondering why they were forced under threat of legal punishment to pay big premiums for a policy that doesn’t really do much for them in practice. And we’ll probably start hearing demands from the Left to carve out billions more in welfare subsidies to pay off those deductibles for them.
Or they’ll just decide to pay the relatively modest tax/penalty and not have insurance. Which leaves us right back where we started – and it’s looking very much as if we’ll be worse off, in terms of the total number of uninsured, for at least the next few months. Where is the benefit, for anyone except politicians and their cronies, from the billions of tax dollars already pumped into this system? And why isn’t the media hammering Obama and his allies over this, asking them at every press opportunity what they have to say to the millions losing their insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, in direct contradiction of the most famous promise Barack Obama ever made?