- - Monday, November 9, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Obamacare was supposed to provide more Americans with more affordable health care. The result would be fewer Americans suffering budget-breaking medical expenses and more Americans living a healthy life. Three years later, more Americans are paying more — in many cases a lot more — for health insurance. Some are dying earlier than they should. The Obamacare bandwagon took a wrong left turn on the road to the promised land.

The Affordable Care Act open enrollment period started Nov. 1, and many Americans have come down with a bad case of sticker shock. Premiums for the middle-tier “silver” plans will rise by an average of 7.5 percent, according to calculations by The Wall Street Journal. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that premiums in Alaska, Minnesota and Tennessee, for example, will jump by a third. Rates in Arizona, Nebraska and North Carolina, for other examples, will climb at least 20 percent, and by 10 percent in Iowa, Louisiana and South Carolina. In selling his health-care con, President Obama promised that the average family would save $2,500 a year on their premiums. So much for “affordable.”

Perhaps it’s affordable if you’re a member of Congress or work at the White House. Even bailing out is hardly a viable option now. Starting next year, the penalty, which goes by the euphemism “individual shared responsibility payment,” for having no health insurance will reach $695 per adult, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher. Some daring folks are trying to save money by buying a plan and figuring to drop it a few months shy of year’s end. If they make it to Jan. 1 without illness or injury, they will have saved enough to pay for part of the next year’s Obamacare without incurring the fine.

Just as the president’s health-care plan is supposed to be providing “patient protection,” Americans are puzzled by the movement away from previously recommended screenings. Earlier this year, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a scholar at the liberal Center for American Progress, urged in an op-ed in The New York Times that Americans should “skip your annual physical” because it’s “basically worthless,” and besides, “the checkups consume billions …”

In his role as a “bioethicist,” Dr. Emanuel, who is 58, has written that life after 75 is not worth living, and the “public good” should trump longevity as the goal of health care policy.

Other deep thinkers in Washington might endorse the notion of a little more health care pain and a little less gain. In 2012, the routine health protocol for men was deemed overdone and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that doctors discontinue the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer screening, saying that the benefits of the test were too small to warrant further use. Last month, the American Cancer Society published new breast cancer screening guidelines recommending that routine mammograms for women should be delayed from beginning at age 40 to beginning at age 45.

Despite the miracles of medicine in the age of Obama, Americans are not necessarily healthier. A Princeton University study finds the death rate for whites aged 45 to 54 has risen a half-percent per year since 1998. Suicide and drug and alcohol overdoses are blamed.

Obamacare has sickened the body politic. A president who believes himself wise enough to re-engineer the American health care should have remembered the ancient proverb, “physician, heal thyself,” and applied it to everybody.

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