The White House and the legacy media continue to claim that Obamacare is a “historic” success. Its actual enrollees, oddly enough, failed to get that memo. A new survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that a majority are dissatisfied with their plans: “Just over half (54 percent) now rate the value of their coverage as ‘only fair’ or ‘poor.’” Moreover, the percentage of Obamacare enrollees unhappy with their premiums and deductibles has been going up: “Nearly half now say they are dissatisfied with their plan’s annual deductible… and four in ten are dissatisfied with their monthly premium.”
To paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, if the ostensible beneficiaries of Obamacare are not disgruntled, they are far from being gruntled. And their dissatisfaction has been steadily increasing. When the “reform” law was first implemented, in 2014, the percentage of enrollees who rated their coverage “only fair” or “poor” was 39 percent. The Obama administration blamed that atrocious performance on contractors involved with Healthcare.gov and the “growing pains” associated with launching such a huge program, but those excuses don’t explain why the dissatisfaction percentage has since climbed to 54 percent.
The Kaiser survey comes on the heels of a Gallup poll showing that, despite the ongoing propaganda campaign to which the public has been subjected by the Obama administration, a majority of Americans now want the law repealed. “Americans are split on the idea of maintaining the ACA.… The slight majority, 51%, favor repealing the act.” The media shamelessly ignored this finding but, as John Merline writes at Investor’s Business Daily, its significance is hard to overstate. “Six years after it became law, most Americans want Obamacare repealed, including a quarter of Democrats.”
Instead of giving this development the coverage it deserved, the media buried it beneath an avalanche of “news” stories about the latest fudged uninsured figures released by the Obama administration. This CNBC headline was typical: “Obamacare brings record low for US uninsured rate.” The problem with such stories and the report on which they were based is that the figures are estimates based on interviews with individuals who will be fined if they fail to buy insurance. Who can be surprised that the number of people who admit being uninsured has dropped since the individual mandate became effective?
Meanwhile, no amount of Obama administration or media propaganda can cover up the one indisputable fact that a majority of Americans see every day with their own eyes — the “Affordable Care Act” is unaffordable. Rather than reducing costs, as promised, it has driven them up. And it’s going to get worse. Marilyn Tavenner, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) when Obamacare was launched, now works for the health insurance industry’s largest trade group and predicts large premium hikes for 2017: “I think the overall trend is going to be higher than we saw in previous years.”
Tavenner points out that some of Obamacare’s risk mitigation programs will soon expire, which will force insurers to raise premiums further. Such programs, including one recently ruled unconstitutional, were meant to protect insurers from crippling losses while “reform” ramped up. Now they are going away, leaving in place serious structural defects in the law. Among the dumbest of these involved the assumption that young people would buy health plans containing benefits they don’t need. This didn’t happen, of course. Not enough young, healthy individuals have enrolled to offset the cost of covering old, sick enrollees.
Such flaws in Obamacare make it impossible for insurers to remain in the health insurance market without raising premiums and deductibles. This has nothing to do with “corporate greed.” It is a function of distortions in the market created by government meddling. The Democrats who passed the “Affordable Care Act” and the President who signed it exacerbated those distortions, and thus managed to make an already flawed health insurance market even more dysfunctional and expensive than it was before they decided to “reform” it. Now, the individuals whom they claim to have helped are growing increasingly frustrated.
Which inevitably brings us to the upcoming presidential election. The presumptive nominees of both parties have lamented the high out-of-pocket costs that bedevil Obamacare enrollees, but their proposed solutions differ significantly. Hillary Clinton wants to “build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act,” and impose price controls on the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries that will have no effect on costs but will reduce access to care and medications for millions of patients. Her plan to help the 30 million people that Obamacare has left uninsured is to expand the already fiscally unsustainable Medicare program.
Donald Trump has pledged to repeal Obamacare, though the replacement plan that he has cobbled together doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he or his advisors have devoted enough serious thought to the issue. He says he will introduce much needed changes to the health care system, like a national insurance market, which would be a step forward. He is also for block-granting Medicaid to the states, another good idea. Unfortunately, his plan contains some bad ideas also advocated by Clinton, like permitting Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies, which would lead to more government price-fixing.
Where does this leave all those unhappy Obamacare enrollees and the majority of Americans who want Obamacare repealed? Trump’s plan is less bad than Clinton’s, assuming he can get elected and doesn’t execute another of his characteristic policy pirouettes. In the end, however, neither of the two will do what needs to be done to make patients happy with their health care — move us toward a patient-centered, free-market system in which the government plays a minimal role. That can actually happen, but not until the voters make their minds up to elect genuine free-market conservatives to both the Presidency and Congress.