Just as President Obama’s health care law hits record unpopularity, multiple reports have surfaced of new problems that could plague Obamacare and cost Americans thousands of dollars each.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 53 percent of people view the law unfavorably. That all-time high figure could get worse as myriad oncoming problems come to life.
At the end of July, White House officials told Congress to expect more “bumps” during the coming 2015 enrollment period. The warning comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that the Healthcare.gov website and all of its problems cost taxpayers $840 million — far more than it cost Apple to develop the iPhone.
However, other observers foresaw this problem months ago. Information surfaced that enrollment data could be wrong for as many as 2 million applicants, a result of the back end of Healthcare.gov being left in disarray as the government scrambled to fix the front end amid last fall’s crash.
Thus, subsidies could be at risk for millions of people, which could lead to higher premiums. The reports have made it clear that the problems that began last fall and have continued into 2014 and now the 2015 enrollment period go much deeper than just a failed website, and they will affect the very workings of the law and the millions of people stuck paying for it through higher taxes and higher premiums.
Not long after the GAO report, National Journal reported that Obamacare enrollees could be shocked with “thousands of dollars more” in premiums for merely keeping the same plan they selected last time.
Eighty-five percent of enrollees are receiving subsidies, which are tied to a “benchmark” plan. However, as new options enter the market, plans could “lose their benchmark status to cheaper competitors.” A new benchmark plan means subsidies based on the old benchmark do not go as far, potentially subjecting enrollees to thousands of dollars in premium increases.
The White House has already set up an “auto-renewal” process, making it easier for people to stick with the plan they have, rather than again having to deal with the Byzantine labyrinth of Healthcare.gov.
One analyst told National Journal, “I would expect that probably the majority of 2014 enrollees are going to be impacted pretty substantially.”
The multitude of factors that could significantly increase premiums is a far cry from President Obama’s oft-repeated promise that Obamacare would “lower premiums by up to $2,500.”
Finally, the incredibly unpopular mandates — the backbone of the law — could be on thin ice. Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, who is up for re-election this fall, has asked the administration to delay the employer mandate once again. Mr. Obama has already failed twice to enforce it on time. Earlier this year, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs predicted that the employer mandate would never go into effect.
The employer mandate could lead to several million more plan cancellations, despite the fact that Mr. Obama repeatedly promised that people could keep their plan if they liked it, which turned into 2013’s “lie of the year” after millions of individual market plans were nixed.
In addition, The Wall Street Journal reported that “almost 90 percent of the nation’s 30 million uninsured won’t pay” the individual-mandate tax as punishment for not having insurance. Despite the fact that the president promised he would “sign a universal health care bill into law that will cover every American,” the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare would leave 30 million people without insurance a decade after implementation. Now, most won’t pay any sort of fine, which was a cornerstone of the law.
Ultimately, Obamacare remains an unmitigated disaster. With the midterm elections approaching, many of those who once loudly backed the president’s health care law aren’t so keen to talk about it now. That’s not surprising, given how many Americans are coping with a seemingly unending barrage of Obamacare’s problems — and an ever-growing list of broken promises.
Akash Chougule is a policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity.