- - Sunday, March 22, 2015

On March 23, 2010, exactly five years ago today, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. Virtually no one had actually read the law, and still fewer understood the full implications of a government takeover of health insurance markets. Now, five years later, we are experiencing these effects firsthand.

Obamacare was sold to the American people — unsuccessfully, since most people opposed it at the time of its passage — as a social safety net to help poor people, to stop them from having to live at the mercy of ruthless insurance companies, and to ensure that every American, regardless of income, could get the health care they needed. For many, it was a compelling story, but like all things that sound too good to be true, it turned out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Obamacare doesn’t help the poor; in fact, it hurts them. It doesn’t provide them with opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty, it doesn’t help them find jobs, and it doesn’t increase their access to medical services.

The following are five specific ways Obamacare is making life worse for America’s poor.

First, Obamacare forces the poor to buy insurance they can’t afford.

The least popular feature of Obamacare is undoubtedly the individual mandate, the requirement that everyone buy health insurance whether they want it or not. The trouble is, not everybody can afford this product. Depending on your age, health and the state you live in, the lowest premium plan acceptable under Obamacare can run into hundreds of dollars a month. And if you can’t afford that? No problem, you can just pay the penalty. In 2015, that comes to $325. If that sounds bad, it’s nothing compared to 2016, when the penalty will spike to $695. While some people will qualify for subsidies to help offset the cost, these are far from universal, and many are now having to pay back subsidies they thought they qualified for.

Second, even if you have insurance, it’s too expensive to use.

An insurance deductible is the amount you have to pay out of pocket each year before your plan takes over and starts picking up the tab. Under Obamacare, the plans with the lowest premiums have the astonishingly high average deductible of $5,181. How many people have five grand lying around to drop on a medical treatment? Certainly not the people who lack employer-provided care and are forced into the Obamacare exchanges. What good is insurance if you have to go bankrupt to use it?

Third, Obamacare redistributes wealth from the young to the old.

Older people tend to spend the most on health care. They also tend to have the most money, having had an entire lifetime to accumulate wages and investments. Yet under Obamacare, insurance companies are forbidden from charging older people more than three times as much as younger ones. This means that young people, who typically earn the least in wages and spend the least on health care, are being forced to subsidize older generations.

Fourth, Obamacare is driving people off private plans onto Medicaid.

Do you remember “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan”? Too bad it turned out to be a whopping lie. While the Obama administration claims that the number of new enrollees in Medicaid proves that Obamacare is increasing access to care, a Boston University-Harvard Medical School study found that 80 percent of new enrollees were shifted off their private insurance plans. Obamacare is forcing poor people off the insurance they had and liked and into a poorly run government program that many doctors now refuse to accept.

Fifth, Obamacare is causing doctors to call it quits.

The best insurance policy in the world is no good if you can’t find a doctor. Medical school admissions are down 6 percent, and the Association of American Medical Colleges is predicting a doctor shortage of 160,000 by 2025. A survey by the Doctor Patient Medical Association Foundation found that 83 percent of doctors have thought about quitting because of Obamacare.

In short, Obamacare is raising costs, not lowering them; decreasing access, not expanding it; and making things far worse for the very people its supporters claim to care about. It’s been five miserable years. Let’s not let this train wreck of a law have another five. FreedomWorks’ “Ten Principles for Replacing Obamacare” presents ideas on how we can bring patient-centered reform to America’s health care system, and scrap Obamacare for good.

Logan Albright is a research analyst for FreedomWorks.

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