Looking at ObamaCare, Five Years On
By Sally C. Pipes
ObamaCare turned five years old March 23. But don’t break out the cake and candles. There’s not much to celebrate. When he signed his signature piece of legislation into law, President Obama guaranteed lower health costs, universal coverage, and higher-quality care. Five years later, the health law has failed to fulfill those promises.
“In the Obama administration,” candidate Obama boasted in 2008, “we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family in a year.”
A recent report by HealthPocket, an online insurance marketplace, has revealed that premiums for individual Americans skyrocketed after ObamaCare became law.
Drug costs have jumped, too, despite promises to the contrary from the Obama administration. The majority of health plans offered on the exchanges have shifted costs for expensive medications onto patients, according to a study by Avalere Health. In 2015, more than 40 percent of all “silver” exchange plans―the most commonly purchased―charged patients 30 percent or more for specialty drugs. Only 27 percent of silver plans did so last year. Part of the problem is that the health law has quashed market competition.
The president promised in 2013 that “this law means more choice, more competition, lower costs for millions of Americans.” But that hasn’t turned out to be true. According to the Heritage Foundation, the number of insurers selling to individual consumers in the exchanges this year is 21.5 percent less than the number that were on the market in 2013―the year before the law took effect.
The Government Accountability Office reports that insurers have left the market in droves. In 2013, 1,232 carriers offered insurance coverage in the individual market. By 2015, that number had shrunk to 310.
With competition in the exchanges on the decline, quality is going down, too―just like President Obama said in 2013: “Without competition, the price of insurance goes up, and the quality goes down.”
Consumers who purchase insurance on the law’s exchanges have fewer options than they had pre-ObamaCare. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. noted that roughly two-thirds of the hospital networks available on the exchanges were either “narrow” or “ultra-narrow.” That means that these insurance plans have refused to partner with at least 30 percent of the area’s hospitals. Other plans exclude more than 70 percent.
Patients may also have fewer doctors to pick from. More than 60 percent of doctors plan to retire earlier than anticipated―by 2016 or sooner, according to Deloitte. The Physicians Foundation reported in the fall that nearly half of all doctors―especially those with more experience―considered ObamaCare’s reforms a failure.
While more Americans may have insurance thanks to ObamaCare, they may not be able to find a doctor to see them. That’s a recipe for waiting lists and de facto rationed care.
Finally, five years on, President Obama’s declaration that he would not sign a plan that “adds one dime to our deficits―either now or in the future” looks more ridiculous than ever. In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office anticipated ObamaCare’s decade-long cost was $940 billion. This year, the CBO more than doubled that price tag, with a new estimate of $2 trillion.
The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this June on King v. Burwell, a case that threatens to negate the law’s subsidies. If the court rules against the administration, ObamaCare would unravel.
Obama has been proven wrong about what his health law would accomplish. Quality hasn’t improved, and costs continue to grow. That’s ObamaCare’s five-year legacy.
Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. She is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute. A version of this article was originally published by The Orange County Register.