Five years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, the White House claims the law is working even better than imagined, but one of its leading critics says every major promise is now proven untrue and costs will keep going higher and higher unless we change course.
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, into law. It happened after a fierce debate on the House floor just a few days earlier and a controversial move by Senate Democratic leaders to pass changes by a simple majority since they did not have the votes to do it through regular order.
The law took full effect in 2014, following a disastrous roll-out of the federal health-care exchange website in October 2013. But for those who warned against the law before its passage, the contents of the law are far more troubling than the major technical problems that bogged down the exchange.
“People have learned on a very personal level how they were lied to in the passage of this law. They’ve lost their doctor. They’ve lost their health plan. Their costs are going up. Many people have lost jobs and certainly hours as a result of it. Small businesses have felt a huge impact, said Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner. “It’s been a tremendous drain on the economy, and very few if any of those original promises were met.”
Turner is a longtime veteran of Washington health-care policy debates. She was at the forefront of the effort to stop the Clinton administration’s attempt to overhaul the health-care system in 1993 and is still fighting to roll back Obamacare.
She was in the House chamber in March 2010 during the final, intense moments of the debate.
“The promises of utopia from Democrats was astonishing to me,” Turner said. “‘Finally, we’re going to get to universal coverage. We’re going to provide coverage to everybody, and we’re going to reduce the deficit. Everybody’s going to save. Families are going to save $2,500 on their health insurance costs.’ On and on and on it went.”
Last week in Cleveland, President Obama referenced the five years since Obamacare was enacted and said the past half-decade proved the law’s critics very wrong.
“Every prediction they’ve made about it turned out to be wrong,” Obama said, accusing critics of employing an “evidence-be-damned” approach to evaluating the law.
“It’s working better than even I expected,” he said.
Turner said the facts tell a very different story.
“We are seeing an even greater shortage of physicians,” she said. “Many of them are selling their practices or even closing their practices because they can’t comply with this avalanche of rules and regulations.”
Turner added, “We’re seeing young people having an ever more difficult time getting that first job to get their foot on the ladder, because the employer mandate has had such a huge dampening effect on job creation in this country.”
And then there are the costs.
“We’re seeing families paying ever higher prices for health insurance that has many more benefits than they want and often less access to physicians and hospitals that they want,” Turner said. “They have not saved $2,500 a year. It has not met its target, even its reduced target, in access to health insurance.
“So I don’t know where he’s getting his numbers, but it is not based upon the actual facts of what’s happening as a result of this law.”
Contrary to promises that the law would lower health-care premiums, Turner said the average person enrolling on the federal exchange in 2013 witnessed a 40 percent spike in rates. As a result, she said focus groups of Americans of all political stripes demonstrate great anger and frustration over the hit to their wallets.
“Half of them voted for President Obama; half of them voted for Romney in the last election to make sure we have a good mix of swing voters,” she said. “You can’t tell the difference between them when they start talking about this law and how they have been personally harmed by it. The first thing you hear is how expensive their health care is now.”
Turner said the financial toll will only get more burdensome if we continue on the present course.
“It’s a prescription for health-care inflation,” she said. “You’ve not increased the supply of doctors and hospitals, and, in fact, hospitals are merging and consolidating. We’re learning today that many more rural hospitals are likely to close. You’re pumping all this additional taxpayer money into the health sector; it’s an absolute prescription for inflation.”
According to Turner, the Obama administration has already made 49 unilateral changes to the law to prevent it from imploding in its infancy. She said a full repeal in Congress will not succeed as long as Obama is president. She said the best near-term hope for major change lies in the Supreme Court’s consideration of King v. Burwell.
That’s the case contending the text of the Affordable Care Act provides for subsidies only through state exchanges and not the federal exchange. Since three-quarters of the states refused to set up exchanges, Turner said a ruling to forbid subsidies through the federal exchange would have a major impact.
“Obamacare would basically be invalidated in 37 states if the plaintiffs win in this case,” she said. “That would provide an opportunity for the Congress to begin to reset the dial, to provide coverage for the people who would otherwise lose it.”
She said the best approach in that scenario is to empower states to take the lead on health coverage.
“(People) would have options or health insurance that their states approve but doesn’t have to comply with all of the rules and mandates of Obamacare,” she said. “It gets away from the employer mandate, moves away from the individual mandate. Millions of people would be protected from Obamacare’s onerous rules and requirements.”
Turner said a win at the Supreme Court will provide a critical opportunity for congressional Republicans to chart a better course while showing concern for people in need of quality, affordable health care.
“Members of Congress on both sides, governors, attorneys general, all of them have stepped forward and said, ‘Yes, we want to take care of those five to six million people, but we want to do it in a way that gives people more freedom, more choice and really unleashes the opportunity for people to purchase the kind of coverage and insurance they want, without these extraordinarily expensive rules and mandates that Obamacare requires,'” she said.