By Twila Brase
Who will Voters Trust with America’s Health Care Future?
The truth is hard to come by in Obamacare.
Americans are still reeling from the news that premiums will climb by double-digits. Adding pain to misery, about 1 in 5 will also have just one insurer to pick from.
But before that disturbing announcement, President Obama gave a 49-minute speech praising his law. His audience was filled with enthusiastic college students, the demographic coveted by advocates of the Affordable Care Act. Most of them probably have no idea that the law’s individual mandate was aimed right at them. The plan was to force the young and healthy to pay sky-high premiums to cover the costs of people with pre-existing conditions.
In 2012, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the mandate unconstitutional, allowing the young to escape. The law has been in trouble ever since, and the drama continues into 2017 with rising premiums, low enrollment, shuttered co-ops and major health plans pulling out.
Just this week, vice presidential hopeful Mike Pence outlined the Trump team’s Obamacare replacement plan. Donald Trump would repeal and replace Obamacare, but details are fuzzy. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to “fix it.” And like the president, she claims Americans got “big benefits” from the law.
President Obama told the students that Americans “don’t know that they’re benefitting from Obamacare.” Then he delivered one tall tale after the next to boost his claim. Here are just eight, with a few countervailing facts:
- “Because of the law, you now have free preventive care. Insurance companies have to offer that in whatever policy they sell. Because of the law, you now have free checkups for women. Because of the law, you get free mammograms.” These are mandated benefits paid for through higher premiums, whether you want them or not. In addition, Health Affairs reports that 80 percent of preventive services add more to medical costs than they save. As medical costs rise, premiums rise.
- “The majority of Americans do not—let me repeat—do not get health care through the Affordable Care Act.” This statement could mislead. Every American has been impacted by the Affordable Care Act, whether they realize it or not. Although a majority of Americans have not gone on the exchange to purchase Obamacare, the law impacts all policies and premiums.
- “And so for most Americans, the Affordable Care Act … has not affected your coverage—except to make it stronger.” The ACA has affected every kind of coverage from Medicare (e.g. a $500 billion cut and lower payments to doctors) to employer plans (e.g. employer mandate and benefits mandate) to the rising cost and limited availability of individual plans. For example, the law prohibits catastrophic coverage past the age of 29.
- “Now, some people may say, well, I’ve seen my copays go up, or my networks have changed. But these are decisions that are made by your employers. It’s not because of Obamacare.” Employers are impacted by the employer mandate, taxes on pharmaceutical corporations, insurers and medical devices, essential health benefit mandates, higher premiums due to the ban on charging sick people more than healthy; the cost of insurer losses from Obamacare and the pending 40 percent “Cadillac tax.”
- “The Affordable Care Act has done what it was designed to do: it gave us affordable health care.” Even Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a proponent of Obamacare, said, “The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.”
- “[I]f your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare. … It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.” The 2,700 pages of law, more than 20,000 pages of regulations, mandates, taxes, fees, and three years of failed risk-based subsidies for insurers have everything to do with rising rates.
- “So because of this law, because of Obamacare, another 20 million Americans now know the financial security of health insurance.” Coverage with unaffordable premiums and deductibles does not represent “financial security.” Furthermore, coverage does not equal care. Due to narrow networks and managed care controls, many patients face delays and denials. Deductibles have grown six times faster than wages since 2010, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- “And the net result is that never in American history has the uninsured rate been lower than it is today. Never.” Define “insured.” The Weekly Standard reports a lower percentage of Americans have private insurance today than in 2007. In fact, if the percentage hadn’t decreased, 3.8 million more people would be privately insured today. Instead, a majority of the 20 million enrollees are enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid is not private insurance; it’s a government program paid for by taxpayers.
You’d like to think your president would tell the truth, but that’s not the case with Obamacare. So what will the next president actually do? Trump says he’ll repeal Obamacare, but he needs Congress to agree. That said, he could deter it unilaterally with regulation rescissions and executive orders. Hillary says she’ll “fix” the law and add a “public option,” a government health plan that would unfairly compete with private health plans. She too needs an agreeable Congress.
Whoever wins will have a huge impact on the choices and rights Americans have over the next four years and beyond.
President Obama told his young audience that Obamacare is “just a first step” in health care reform. That was probably true, but the President’s term is almost up, and Americans don’t have to settle for Obamacare or single-payer or government-run health care.
So, who will America trust with America’s health care future?
(Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom is a 501(c)3 national patient-centered national health freedom organization based in St. Paul, Minn., that exists to protect health care choices, individualized patient care, and medical and genetic privacy rights. CCHF sponsors the daily, 60-second radio feature, “Health Freedom Minute” and has branded “The Wedge of Health Freedom,” available to patients and doctors at www.JointheWedge.com. CCHF president and co-founder Twila Brase, R.N., has been called one of the “100 Most Powerful People in Health Care” and one of “Minnesota’s 100 Most Influential Health Care Leaders.”)