It might be important, and even ‘fun,’ to present some facts and inevitable opinions on each of these matters, but time is short. As a first step toward that goal, I shall concentrate today on health care plan cost hikes, and more broadly on the ACA (Obamacare), since Donald Trump seems somewhat possessed by the subject!
The Rate Hikes:
- Obamacare does not affect all health insurance rates and plans. The ACA is, after all, limited in its applicability. It does not affect rates charged to those not on Obamacare, which is the clear majority of insured citizens. The private insurance that you purchase directly, or the company policy that you have from work, or any policy that is not offered on the state and federal health exchanges, their rates are not directly influenced or controlled by the ACA (Obamacare). Rising rates seen in them come not from Obamacare but from your insurance provider trying to keep up with the generally rising costs associated with healthcare, pure and simple. Paul Krugman reminds us: “The spike in premiums…only applies to one piece of the health care system — the “exchanges,” the insurance markets Obamacare established for people who aren’t covered either by their employers or by government programs, mainly Medicare and Medicaid.” So, the first paragraph of the AP story tends to distort the true picture, as do many Republicans, including Donald Trump, who want you to believe that Obamacare rates determine the rates of all health insurance plans. They do not.
- The ACA has two basic goals that are essentially being met.
“Health reform had two big goals: to cover the uninsured and to rein in the overall growth of health care costs — to “bend the curve,” in the jargon of health policy wonks. Sure enough, the fraction of Americans without health insurance has declined to its lowest level in history, while health cost growth has plunged: since Obamacare passed Congress, private insurance costs have risen less than half as fast as they did in the previous decade, and Medicare costs have risen less than a fifth as fast.”
- The larger premium increases are not a surprise.
- A big part of this story is the importance of mandated subsidies to keep costs low for those who enroll under Obamacare.
- Republicans in Congress must share the blame for higher rates and loss of insurers.
- Despite all the exaggerated bad news from the Trump camp and from the Congressional Republican saboteurs, there is hope for future stabilization and success.
- One-time factors. Although somewhat turbulent, this is what new comprehensive programs must go through: a period of fixing technical problems, ironing out initial errors and stabilization of new and worthwhile provisions. Medicare is an example. Since its inception in 1965, Congress has been amending it, and even now it undergoes needed changes, and remains one of the government programs most approved by the public. Per the NY Times: “An optimistic view of this year’s price increases is that they represent a one-time market correction, as insurers adjust to the real costs of caring for these customers and to the changes in federal policy.”
- None of the current problems are insurmountable.