TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

ObamaCare falls short for millions

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Byron York
Friday, July 4, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
 

To hear administration officials and their supporters in the press tell it, this is a great time for ObamaCare. People who signed up for coverage are actually paying for it; more insurance companies are joining exchanges; some consumers have more choices than originally envisioned.

Not so fast. Yes, ObamaCare is a big help for those now receiving something substantial from the government — large subsidies for the lowest-income Americans who purchase coverage on the exchanges, free health care for people eligible for the expanded Medicaid program. But for millions of other Americans, it's a different story.

Of the much-discussed 8 million Americans who have signed up for ObamaCare, the “vast majority ... are receiving financial assistance,” according to a new Department of Health and Human Services report. What that means is this: Of the 8 million, about 85 percent, or 6.8 million, actually paid for coverage. Of those, about 87 percent, or 5.9 million, receive taxpayer-paid subsidies to help them pay.

“It would appear from this data that it is the lowest income people who are most often signing up for coverage,” writes insurance industry analyst Bob Laszewski.

The problem is, for those who are not eligible for subsidies, or for those eligible only for smaller subsidies, ObamaCare still presents higher premiums, higher deductibles and narrow networks of doctors and hospitals.

“The ObamaCare plans are unattractive to all but the poorest who get the biggest subsidies and the lowest deductibles,” writes Laszewski. “The working class and middle class are not getting access to attractive benefits.”

So they have not purchased coverage. The Democrats who created ObamaCare planned to pressure them into doing so by imposing an individual mandate — a penalty euphemistically called a “shared responsibility fee” — on those who go uninsured.

But now comes word that very few will pay the penalty. In a recent study, the Congressional Budget Office said that of the 30 million people estimated to be uninsured in 2016, only about 4 million will be required to pay. The rest will be exempt from the mandate under various regulations issued by the Obama administration.

So this is one vision of ObamaCare's future: Lower-income Americans purchase insurance because they receive the biggest subsidies. Others with somewhat higher incomes are priced out of the ObamaCare market. The individual mandate is meaningless. The net result is tens of millions remain without coverage. “ObamaCare looks to be on its way to creating a chronically uninsured class,” says Laszewski.

That's certainly not what Barack Obama promised when he said his plan would make health care “better for everybody.”

What happens now? After Democrats finish crowing about what a success ObamaCare is, it's likely they will argue that subsidies must be extended to more and more Americans to pay for coverage that ObamaCare has made more and more expensive. Republicans will resist, but at the same time realize ObamaCare has changed the health care system in ways that will be difficult to overturn and hard to fix.

And for those millions for whom ObamaCare is a bad deal? They're just out of luck.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Pirates acquire pitcher Blanton from Royals for cash
  2. Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
  3. Teenage boys arrested in connection with armed robberies in Shadyside
  4. Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
  5. ‘Greed is not criminal,’ says judge in McCullough trial
  6. Work release inmate walks away from Armstrong County Jail
  7. Pittsburgh authority hires firm to end long vacancy at North Shore retail space
  8. Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
  9. Multiple delays to slow travel between Alle-Kiski Valley, Greensburg
  10. Police: Avonmore mayor found stranger’s lost wallet, took cash from it
  11. Connellsville man arrested for firing handgun at city’s East Park