Having fully embraced the increasingly troubled Affordable Care Act, Hillary Clinton is surely hoping health reform remains a side issue this presidential campaign.
But recent developments have propelled the failures of Obamacare back into the spotlight.
Costs for individual Obamacare policies are expected to be 24 percent higher next year. Voters will see for themselves the huge premium spikes when open enrollment starts — just a week before Election Day.
Insurers are pulling out of the exchanges after losing billions of dollars, leaving people with fewer choices. Deductibles are soaring to as high as $12,000 on exchange policies, and many people say they might as well be uninsured.
This Obamacare inflation impacts everyone. August saw the biggest monthly gain in prices for medicine, doctor appointments and health insurance since 1984, according to a recent report by Kaiser and the Health Research & Education Trust. The average employer-sponsored family policy now costs more than $18,000 a year.
That means family coverage costs $4,400 more today than before the health law passed in 2010. So much for President Barack Obama’s promise families would save $2,500 a year.
Further, the Government Accountability Office found the Obamacare website is a magnet for fraud. The office created 14 fictitious enrollees who were approved for $60,000 in health insurance subsidies, despite fake identification and citizenship documents.
Clinton owns the failures of Obamacare after telling Iowa voters: “I will defend the Affordable Care Act, but as president I want to go further.”
So Clinton actually wants to double down on Obamacare, even after seeing public support for the health law tumble. She wants to create another big government “public option” health insurance plan. The “option” would have unlimited calls on taxpayer dollars — and government force — and would quickly drive remaining private insurers out of the market, leaving people with only the “choice” of a government-run health plan.
The idea might have more traction were it not for the experience of a similar experiment — the nonprofit, citizen-run health insurance cooperatives concocted by Obamacare. The co-op program cost taxpayers $2.4 billion, but 17 of the 23 state co-ops have failed, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to scramble to find new policies.
Nonetheless, supporters of the law proclaim its success to a skeptical public. They boast that the law has reduced the number of uninsured to 29 million — still a far cry from the promised universal coverage.
Many of the 10 million receiving insurance through the health insurance exchanges are there because they lost their earlier policies. And Medicaid has been expanded by 16 million since 2010, relegating beneficiaries to one of the worst health care programs in America.
The uninsured rates may be falling, but unhappiness with our health system is rising. Deservedly or not, Obamacare is taking the fall. It has become a symbol of broken promises and distrust in government. It is an albatross for Clinton.
Looking forward, voters are anxious to hear what candidates will do to solve the problems of high costs, soaring deductibles and loss of choice while still making sure that the people who have gained coverage don’t lose it.
Clinton’s track record, including her 1993 push for health reform, show she wants even more government control over our health care, but clearly, voters want less.
The House of Representatives, under Speaker Paul Ryan, has spent much of this year developing a “Better Way” plan — comprehensive health reform that would provide people with more choices, provide assistance for those who need help in purchasing policies, protect people with pre-existing conditions and return regulatory authority to the states that can be more responsive to the needs of their citizens.
Many of the ideas build on successful programs like Health Savings Accounts, the Medicare prescription drug program and Medicare Advantage.
We can and must do better than Obamacare, and the voters know it.
Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit research organization focusing on patient-centered health reform. Readers may write her at Galen, 128 S. Royal St., Alexandria, VA 22314 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.