Friday, June 20, 2014

ObamaCare Exchanges – A Good News, Bad News Story

The bad news is the good news is wrong.


In 1984, Ben Wattenberg (born 1933) , an author,  columnist, and speechwriter and consultant to Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey,  wrote  The Good News is the Bad News is Wrong(Simon and Shuster).

In his book, Wattenberg insisted things were not really as bad as they seemed despite the doomsday rhetoric of the day.

Sound familiar?   In the case of ObamaCare critics, the title might be changed to read   The Bad News Is The Good News Is Wrong.

The good news, says the Obama administration and its supporters, is that things are going swimmingly  for the ObamaCare health exchanges. (See MSNBC,  “Everything Is Coming Up Aces for the ACA,” and New York Times, “Good Progress for Affordable Health Care.”

The good news story goes:
Eighty seven percent of people signing up for the exchanges are actually paying their premiums;   85% are receiving government subsidies; more insurance companies are joining the exchanges’ consumers are having more choices than originally planned; large government subsidies are helping low-income Americans get coverage;  the exchanges encouraged  millions of  more Americans to  join the Medicaid rolls;  and a benevolent government is paying  for 76% of it all, especially for the poor and uninsured. 

But alas, not so fast.  Insurance analyst Bob Laswewki notes,” It would appear the lowest income people are the most often signing up for coverage.  That explains the average consumer is to high an average net cost is so low.”

The good news is that 8 million signed up for the exchanges and 3 million joined Medicaid.

The bad news?  What about the 310 million who did not sign up and the 60% to 70% of Americans who will not qualify for subsidies because their incomes exceed $46,000 ?   

And what about those Americans are priced out of the market because of an average  of 30%  higher premiums and $6000 deductibles? 
Says Laswewski, “ObamaCare looks to be on its way to crating a chronically  uninsured class.”

ObamaCare  has effectively made health care coverage more and more expensive for more of the Middle Class,  whose average income has dropped from $55,000 to $51,000  during his administration and who now must pay higher  premium and meet  $6000 deductibles .

As one such Middle Class person, commented,” It’s like having no insurance at all.”   

What if the Middle Class,  or even if the insured,  are unable to pay the premiums or to find a doctor who will accept those in ObamaCare plans to pay for care up to the deductible when they need the care?   
Some will go on Medicaid,  some will try to qualify for subsidies, some will go to direct pay physicians who  offer affordable retainers,  some will ask for cash discounts.     

And in many cases,  hospitals and doctors will take a financial hit because they are legally or morally obligated to provide care for those who need it.

Not to worry, says the New York Times,  “Americans are finding very affordable care and a wide choice on the plans operated by the federal government.”  

But what about those with no plans or those not operated by the federal government?    

And what about those false promises that under ObamaCare health care would “be better for everyone,” would cut the average family premium by $2500 when the reverse is true, and what about the promise that ObamaCare would “bend the cost curve” for the “average person”?  

The answers will depend on voter opinions, as expressed in the polls in November 2014 and November 2016, and on what “average person” means and upon  what those persons think  who are not content to be “average.”

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