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1:20 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Column: Obamacare, not the problem

I have two important questions for you about Obamacare.

Before I get to those let’s clarify one essential fact about the program: It’s not the problem.

Premiums are going up. Yup. Caused by Obamacare? Nope. Health care costs keep going up as much as ever. Yup. Because of the program? Nope. Exchanges in some areas are down to one provider. Yup. That is a problem internally for the program, but does it make any difference to the overall state of health insurance in the country? Nope.

More:

The part of the law that was supposed to help insurers cover the higher costs of the new provisions but which Congress has blocked, forcing companies to raise rates:

bigstory.ap.org/article/fb5d91b572d340cba42041911a2b6047/whats-ailing-aca-insurers-or-congress

<p>Vox.com gave both sides a chance to state their case and then respond to each other. Now that's fair and balanced. Parts 1 - 4:

www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/10/7/13191250/obamacare-exchanges-crisis-arrogant-progressives

www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/10/7/13192640/obamacare-exchanges-insurance-healthcare-fix

www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/10/19/13330956/obamacare-architects-try-fail-deflect-blame

www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/10/19/13331498/republican-criticisms-obamacare-misleading

The key complaint is that premiums and deductibles are going up, both for people with insurance from work and for people getting individual insurance. True, but these are costs that would have gone up regardless, which I’ll come back to. The program is not the cause.

The other criticism is of internal problems, like some areas only having one option on the exchange, or fewer young people signed up than anticipated. While these may be fodder for gleeful raspberries from detractors, so what? Do these internal problems affect you? If you have work or private insurance, no. Those insured through the exchange still have a good option, which I’ll cover next. In any case it has no effect on insurance overall in the country.

The exchanges are having fewer providers because the insurance companies made less profit than projected. That is largely because the people who signed up were sicker than was expected. That’s not a problem Obamacare created. It’s a matter of the nation’s health care needs being even worse than we knew.

Even with just one provider the exchange offers a good plan because of required levels of coverage and limits on profits. For low income people it has reduced premiums, which has resulted in an enormous and historical reduction of the uninsured with no option but the emergency room.

For those with higher income who don’t qualify for reduced premiums, or who just want more options, and who do not get insurance through work, the situation is exactly the same as before Obamacare. You can go to agents and companies and shop around. You’re not limited to what’s on the exchange.

The cost will be higher. Everyone’s insurance cost is higher. Why? Two main reasons. One, our normal crazily rapid growth of the cost of care. Two, Obamacare. Yup. Here I’ll lay some blame squarely on Obamacare, but you see whether it really adds up to blame. With the law came some changes you’ve no doubt heard of. Regardless whether you get insurance from work or your agent or through the exchange: 1) People with serious health problems can’t be denied. 2) People who become sick can’t be cut off because they reached some maximum annual or lifetime limit. 3) Sick people can’t be charged bankruptingly high rates, they have to be able to get coverage like anyone else. 4) Plans can not have lots of holes like they used to, leading you to think you were covered but come to find out big important things weren’t included. 5) Older people can’t be charged many times more than

younger; only three times at most.

Those things were all needed. They all raise rates. It’s not something Obamacare caused. It’s just what insurance in this country costs if we’re going to really cover people. The only way to bring rates back down would be to undo all of that, kicking those people off, and possibly causing your rates to soar many times even higher than now, or have no coverage at all.

That’s your core decision regarding future national debates on changes. You can’t repeal Obamacare, then enact something else with those provisions, and come out cheaper. It’s those provisions that raise the rates. Do we want them? They’re not free.

The biggest problem at the moment is that the burden is not distributed well. Those who don’t get reduced premiums, and aren’t rich, especially if approaching Medicare age, have costs that are ridiculous. The law has built into it a way to deal with that. Congress has gone to great lengths to block that part, to sabotage it so they can then say, “See? Told you it wouldn’t work!” The details are too long for here but see the link with this column.

We should be angry about costs and do everything to lower the expense of health care, but if your anger is pointed at Obamacare, you’re pointed at the wrong target.

You watch. In letters to the editor detractors will cite a million statistics about rates going up and problems in the program and all the rest, completely ignoring the point here. When you read those letters, just keep asking yourself this: Other than the provisions described above, is there anything about Obamacare that’s causing the big rise in your rates? You won’t find any.

Given all of that, here are those two questions for you: So, who pointed you at the wrong target? And what was their motivation for doing so?

The part of the law that was supposed to help insurers cover the higher costs of the new provisions but which Congress has blocked, forcing companies to raise rates:

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at tomcantlon.com.