As it enters its seventh year the enormity of the disaster of the Obama Administration’s effort to solve American health care problems continues to grow.
Nor will it be that easy to untangle its effects on the whole medical industry as statements from some of the presidential candidates indicate.
First of course are the astronomical costs which Obamacare has incurred.
The latest Congressional Budget Office report, released last week, estimates that over the next ten years Obamacare will add $1.4 trillion to the nation’s debt — were it to continue to exist.
Much of the discussion about the cost of the whole medical scene is totally unrealistic. Candidate Hillary Clinton, for example, after proposing new and expensive additions to Obamacare – while criticizing her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders for suggesting expansion of Medicare to all as unrealistic – proposes a completely nonsensical solution. She would put a 4% tax on millionaires to pay for the increased costs she acknowledges would occur. Unfortunately that would yield only about $150 billion over ten years, a tiny fraction of what her proposed additional new tax credits under the plan would require.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last May that the ill-fated Obamacare website, the heart of the new regime, cost $834 million to build. But Bloomberg Government, put the total cost at $2.1 billion. It continues to be a hazard for any medical progress, or even to fathom what is happening.
Obamacare’s central skeleton, the coops of insured which were intended to inject competition and therefore lower prices into medical services, have been another disaster. All but 12 of the original 23 have failed and Congressional critics doubt that the $1.2 billion loaned them will be repaid.
Obamacare’s principal intent, to bring into the insurance fold the vast numbers of Americans who had no health insurance, is also dubious. Of the more than 11 million who signed up by the end of enrollment in 2015, three million had dropped out by the end of the year and all told 25% either didn’t buy into the plan or dropped out according to the Heritage Foundation. Although Obamacare spokesmen claimed they had been successful in enlisting non-insured persons in the program, only 10 states have more insured on the Obamacare rolls.
One of the most quoted of the promises by the President for the program has evaporated. Insurers are drastically reducing your choice of doctors and hospitals to cut costs. Among the industry stalwarts it is called “narrowing networks”. The average insured person can expect even fewer choices in the future, according to the Heritage Foundation..
Politically, perhaps the worst aspect of Obamacare is the constant call by its opponents – and the taunts of its few remaining supporters, even in the Administration – for the critics to come up with an alternative plan. But to do so would without doubt create another and equally crippling disaster.
The fact is that resolving the complexities of the American medical scene in one “comprehensive” program has always been an invitation to debacle. The medical complex accounts for one-sixth of the American economy. And, of course, an even more perplexing problem is that it is constantly changing, in no small part because of the progress of American medicine in many fields which however requires new and expensive technology. The often quoted comparisons with medical programs in other countries – especially by those advocates of government “single payer” systems – often ignore the statistics on health problems in the U.S. A good example is the survival rates for breast cancer which are so much better here than the most advanced European health systems.
That does not mean that strenuous effort should not be made, first to repeal most of Obamacare, and secondly to proceed with some individual relatively simple common sense solutions. Obamacare ignored the cabals that exist in most states between legislatures and favored insurers which prohibit buying insurance across statelines. Simply removing that barricade would go a long way toward beginning the kind of competition that could reduce health costs. Let’s take it one step at a time.