Sensenbrenner: Obamacare is failing Wisconsin
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Obamacare is not in the death spiral that Republicans are claiming, and health insurers might soon see profitable years ahead. Those who skim headlines might think, “Republicans are wrong.” However, when you read further you learn why insurers may start profiting from the Obamacare exchanges.
The Times article is based on an analysis by Standard & Poor’s which states that the company is seeing the first positive signs in 2016 that the insurance market could be manageable for most health insurers, and that the “market is not in a death spiral.” To many people, that sounds like good news, but what's good for insurance companies isn't necessarily good for consumers.
Republicans and Democrats alike want to ensure that Americans have access to quality health care, so if the insurance market is stabilizing it’s generally perceived as positive.
A stable market means that insurers are operating a healthy risk pool to cover the costs of the ailing while still retaining continuous premium payments from the healthy. The problem is that then-President Obama’s promise that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” is still not being fulfilled.
S&P analyst Deep Banerjee notes that insurers are starting to understand the new individual insurance market and therefore have begun to increase their prices to cover costs. They also have significantly narrowed their networks to include fewer doctors and hospitals as a way to lower costs.
Simply stated, insurers are charging individuals more while offering fewer choices and services. This isn’t a positive development for our health system or the American people.
You need to look no further than our own state to see Obamacare's negative impact. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average insurance premium increase in Wisconsin this year is 36%. Further, more than 350,000 Wisconsin health care consumers have fewer insurance choices. This trend is not unique to Wisconsin — it’s happening nationwide.
It’s true that our old health insurance system was flawed and needed to be fixed. It allowed for the denial of coverage to those in our society who needed access to health care the most. And of those who could be covered with an illness, they would be charged substantially higher premiums. However, Obamacare’s flawed policies made matters worse.
Obamacare placed a mandate on all Americans to purchase health insurance. They were told that they must retain coverage with the promise that they wouldn’t be denied for any reason and that their premiums would have little difference in price from others. The idea being that with all Americans purchasing health insurance, risk pools would be fully funded and those who consume the most in health care services would have continued access to the care they required.
That led to one of Obamacare's biggest failures — an overall lack of participation. Americans who did not require many health care services found that it was cheaper to pay the Obamacare tax penalty for not purchasing insurance rather than paying expensive premiums for a health insurance plan that covered services they didn’t need.
S&P’s conclusion that the Obamacare death spiral is a fallacy and that the program is on a successful path is disingenuous, particularly because its own report acknowledges that the only reason insurers are getting closer to financial solvency is because prices have become less affordable. The point of Obamacare was to make health insurance more affordable, and it failed to do so.
Anyone pointing to this report as an “I told you so” to critics of Obamacare should do so with caution, because while the Affordable Care Act may be on a path to greater financial stability, it is only because of limited access to services and dramatic increases in health insurance premiums.
This disastrous law is bad for Wisconsin and bad for America, which is why Republicans are working to repeal and replace it with a plan that increases access to coverage, lowers premiums, and provides more options for health care consumers.
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