By now everyone knows that Obamacare is officially the public policy flop of this generation. With the latest news of premium increases of 22 percent, insurance companies dropping out, dwindling competition, and rising costs to taxpayers, this is truly the Hindenburg of health plans.
But there is another part of the story that needs to be told. This wasn’t just a liberal screw up, it was a financial swindle of taxpayers. President Obama’s team and the liberal echo chamber lied about Obamacare from the start and covered up the financial time bomb that would soon detonate in Americans’ laps. These were like Enron officials cooking the books to cover up financial fraud — except in the case of Obamacare, no one ends up in jail.
Anyone remember how the White House said Obamacare would pay for itself by using 10 years of revenue to pay for eight years of spending? Where is Elizabeth Warren when you need her?
The only thing that has caught the left by surprise is that Obamacare has burst into flames so much faster than even severe critics — like myself — ever thought possible. The left was praying the bad news wouldn’t be exposed until after the election. Now at least Americans will go to the polls with the ugly facts right in front of them.
One technique the left used to try to shut up critics was to engage in name-calling and accusing skeptics of exaggerating the costs with false and misleading numbers. In these pages two years ago I wrote a column which started with what now looks pretty prescient:
“If there were a contest for the biggest lie in Washington over the past 30 years, it would be hard to compete with President Obama’s boast that he would put 30 million more Americans on Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid, and this would reduce the deficit … Is there a single promise that Mr. Obama made about Obamacare that has proven truthful?”
Well, it hasn’t bent the cost curve down, it has been a major driver of higher budget costs for health care (as the Congressional Budget Office acknowledged last month), it hasn’t given consumers more choices, and it certainly has not saved the average family $2,500 a year.
But when I wrote this piece, New York Magazine published an article about me titled: “Right Wing Scholar Who Gets Paid to Say Obamacare Doesn’t Work Can’t Find Single true Fact to Support His case.”
Then for several pages the author Jonathan Chait argues that I’m “oblivious to the law’s demonstrable success,” and that I am deliberately deceiving people by “treating the law as a costly and obvious failure.” He says I was “demonstrably wrong” in claiming the law was not saving families $2,500 a year. Well is there anyone who has saved that kind of money?
If anything, I understated the case against Obamacare. The Obamacare insurance companies now want a taxpayer bailout in the billions of dollars because the exchanges are in a cost death spiral. Healthy people aren’t signing up and sick people are enrolling at a record pace. This will add billions more to the program’s cost. So much for Mr. Obama’s claim this wasn’t going to cost taxpayers a penny.
In 2017 about one in five Obamacare enrollees will have only one insurance plan to choose from. One third of counties have only one insurer. That’s a lot of choice and competition. It’s like what Henry Ford said about the ModelT, you can have it in any color as long as it’s black. This contraction of the market is going to get worse in a hurry, which is why Hillary Clinton wants a “public option,” which will soon be your only option.
The few remaining Obamacare defenders meekly say that most people are not facing 22 percent premium hikes because most Americans are in employer plans. But those employer plans are starting to see the same rising price pressures.
Mike Tanner, Cato’s health care expert reports that “not only are Americans going to pay more, they’re going to get less. Deductibles have risen steadily since the ACA began. The average deductible for a family with a Silver plan now exceeds $6,400. Total out-of-pocket costs can exceed $12,000.”
Even the one goal of Obamacare that should have been easy to achieve given the massive cost of the program, is way underperforming. Instead of 24 million covered as promised, the number is half that, or 11.4 million. The vast majority of Americans who have gotten health insurance under the new law were dumped into Medicaid. This is a welfare program for people with very low incomes. Shouldn’t we define success in America when fewer, not more people are receiving welfare?
By the way, Medicaid is such a bad insurance program — with many doctors and treatment centers refusing to take Medicaid enrollees — that the health results of those in the program are barely better than for those with no insurance at all.
So I will ask the same question I asked two years ago, except the evidence is even more persuasive now: is there any sane person today who doesn’t recognize the law “as a costly and obvious failure?”
Also, I’m waiting for an apology from New York magazine or Jonathan Chait for their libel, but that’s about as likely as Obamacare ever saving money.
• Stephen Moore is an economic consultant with FreedomWorks and a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign.