On Inauguration Day, the next president of the United States should suspend the penalty for being uninsured under Obamacare. President Obama promised his law would provide an array of affordable health plans.
In 2017, consumers will get neither choice nor affordability. In nearly one-third of the nation, only one insurer will offer coverage — that’s no choice at all. And everywhere premiums are skyrocketing. Obamacare is broken.
Slapping Obamacare refuseniks with hefty penalties (averaging almost a thousand dollars) for not signing up is as unjust as enforcing a parking ticket when the meter was broken.
Consumers will be clobbered starting November 1, the beginning of open enrollment.
They’ll want to know what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton intend to do about it, especially in in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, where premiums are rising 30 percent and even 40 percent. In many parts of Florida, another must-win state, consumers will be forced to sign up for the only insurer in town or get hit with the penalty.
Giant insurers Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana are exiting most Obamacare exchanges after losing billions trying to sell the unpopular plans.
Wherever only one insurer remains, all patients on Obamacare will be funneled into that single remaining insurer’s network of doctors. That will make it nearly impossible to get a doctor’s appointment.
Worse, many of these remaining insurers are primarily in the Medicaid business. Obamacare will mean paying soaring premiums for Medicaid-level access to care. What a deal.
In Illinois, most Obamacare premiums are going up 51 percent premium hike before subsidies. In Tennessee, 62 percent.
Individuals earning more than $48,000 or couples earning more than $64,000 have to pay full freight. It’s highway robbery.
From the start, Obamacare has made financial sense only for two groups: the very sick or those eligible for a free ride. That’s why more than 11 million people a year are opting to pay penalties instead of buying Obamacare. Amazing. More people are paying not to have it than are signing up for it.
Now, with premiums soaring and choices disappearing, even more people will say “no” to Obamacare, predicts industry expert Robert Laszewski.
These people shouldn’t get penalized. The same law that imposes the penalty promised them choice and affordability — and is reneging on both.
Does a president have the power to suspend the penalty?
Yes. Only Congress can make or change law. I am not suggesting the next president go rogue, like Obama himself did, changing the law 43 times without asking Congress. But the Section 5000 hardship exemptions give the next president a legal opening.
Stratospheric premiums and deductibles and no choice are hardships for sure.
Laszewski warns that dropping the penalty “would only make the system implode faster.” True, because the young and healthy will be under no pressure to pay for a raw deal. But why should these individuals be sacrificed to prop up “the system”?
The collapse of the Obamacare plans is good riddance. Twenty million people have gained coverage under the ACA, but the lion’s share are enrolled in Medicaid, not in these private plans. They cover at most about 8 million people who were previously uninsured — a small gain compared with hardship on the 11 million who pay the penalty and 5 or so million who had insurance the liked and were forced to give up to enroll in Obamacare instead.
Obamacare’s chief architect Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel calls for stiffer penalties on the uninsured. Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt recommends the U.S. copy how European countries crack down on the uninsured, including garnishing wages.
Yikes. Sounds like the coercive measures.
Hillary Clinton recommended in 1993, when she proposed her failed healthcare plan. (And no doubt what she’d try again — compulsion.)
But Americans don’t want to be Europeanized, and they won’t march
in lockstep into an insurance scheme that takes away their choices.
Let’s hope the next president is listening.
Betsy McCaughey is a patient advocate, constitutional scholar, syndicated columnist, regular contributor on Fox News and CNBC, and former lieutenant governor of New York. In 1993 she read the 1,362-page Clinton health bill, warned the nation what it said, and made history. McCaughey earned her Ph.D. in constitutional history from Columbia University. She is author of "Beating Obamacare 2014" and "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution." For more of Betsy's reports, Go Here Now.
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