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Will 2016 Be the Year Obamacare Dies?

Will 2016 Be the Year Obamacare Dies?

By Wednesday, 23 December 2015 06:54 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Obamacare is in intensive care. Instead of universal coverage, we have a universal nightmare that’s still there when we wake up. What went wrong?

Pretty much everything went wrong.

That Obamacare isn’t working as advertised should surprise no one. Giant, complicated government-constructed machines always bring unexpected results. This one is more giant and complicated than most.

The Affordable Care Act is so complex because it took major compromises just to get all the Democrats aboard. Recall that in the 2008 primaries, Barack Obama opposed the “individual mandate” he now defends so vigorously. Hillary Clinton insisted the mandate was critical. She eventually got her way, despite losing the nomination.

On the other hand, we can’t claim the system was working fine before Obama broke it. Back in 2008, many of us thought health care couldn’t possibly get worse.

Then we got Obamacare. Oops.

The program’s failure to rein in high costs – especially drug costs – forced insurers to hike their 2016 rates, sometimes dramatically. Because the Obamacare tax credits track income rather than the cost of coverage, lower-income people saw their net costs jump the most.

My own insurance agent gave me an awful report from the trenches last week. This is someone who’s been in the business a long time but says he never saw anything like this. 

Even lifelong Democrats are seething with anger and frustration, he said. He knows exactly why, too.

“I have clients who get decent subsidies who can't afford the insurance.  Families in the $20k to $40k range had great subsidies in the first two years, getting full PPO plans for $150 to $250 per month. Then the rates jumped, the subsidies stayed the same, and the coverage got worse.  What looked like a great deal to those on the lower end is now an empty suit.”

An empty suit, indeed. The low-income consumers whom Obamacare was supposed to help just saw their rates skyrocket and their benefits sliced.

Do the math. If a family making $40,000 have to pay $400 a month, after subsidies, for partial coverage and another $100 on co-pays and deductibles, that’s 15% of their income.

They are probably still unhealthy, too. Obamacare did nothing to help them and may even be hurting them.

The real scary part is we’ve only touched the surface.  Next year the penalty for not having coverage rises to $695 or 2.5% of your income, whichever is higher.

For many folks, that “penalty” will be far less than it costs to buy insurance that is unusable because they can’t afford to pay the deductibles. They will take the penalty hit.

If enough people make that perfectly rational choice, Obamacare will enter the death spiral many predicted.

Obamacare’s next line of defense is the employer mandate, which expands in 2016 to include companies with as few as 50 full-time employees. I predict many will do their duty by offering coverage, but it will be such a bad deal the employees won’t take it.

What can anyone do about all this?

Not much, for now. The GOP court challenges have accomplished little. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., cut to the “risk corridor” feature drew a little blood, but it also gave insurers another reason to raise prices.

I agree with the Republican goal of replacing Obamacare. I disagree with the piecemeal strategy.

Rubio in particular seems not to understand what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Never strike a king unless you are sure you shall kill him.”

Opposing Obamacare by making it even worse serves only to increase suffering for average citizens. Better to let it die on its own – which it will – and have an alternative ready to take its place.

What that alternative will be is debatable. The fact that we’ll need it is not.

Patrick Watson is an Austin-based financial writer. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickW

To read more of his insights, CLICK HERE NOW.

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Obamacare is in intensive care. Instead of universal coverage, we have a universal nightmare that's still there when we wake up. What went wrong? Pretty much everything went wrong.
obamacare, health insurance, coverage, economy
Wednesday, 23 December 2015 06:54 AM
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