A Not-So-Happy Obamacare Anniversary

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Written by Justin Haskins

Six years ago, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), radically transforming the U.S. health care system and insurance marketplace. Proponents of the ambitious legislation promised it would improve the quality of care for all Americans and provide access to health insurance for millions of people who couldn’t afford insurance but didn’t qualify for Medicaid. Proponents also said insurance companies would make billions of dollars in additional revenue from the expanded health insurance market, largely resulting from the individual mandate.

Sounds like a win-win-win scenario. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, apparently.

Since the ACA marketplaces opened in 2014, health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, high-quality health insurance policies have disappeared from Obamacare marketplaces across the country, and health insurance companies are losing millions of dollars (UnitedHealth lost nearly $475 million in 2015 alone.)

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats ignored the protests made by tens of millions of Americans, the recommendations of countless think tanks and policy experts, and pleas from pro-liberty elected officials in Washington, DC and in state governments across the United States. The results have been disastrous.

Making matters even worse, just one week before Obamacare’s anniversary, Edmund Haislmaier, a senior research fellow for the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, released a new Issue Brief revealing the number of “exchange-participating insurers” has significantly declined in state and federal exchanges, leaving consumers with fewer options from which to purchase quality health insurance.

According to Haislmaier, “[In 2016,] there are 287 exchange-participating insurers, as compared to 307 in 2015. While the participation level in 2016 is greater than the 253 insurers that offered exchange coverage in 2014, the figures for all three years are still well below the 395 insurers that offered individual-market coverage in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2013, just prior to the ACA taking effect.”

Haislmaier also says the number of “unique carriers” offering plans in one or more states has declined by 11 percent, from 155 in 2015 to 137 in 2016, leaving some consumers with very few health insurance options. In Alaska and Wyoming, only one insurer offers health insurance on an ACA exchange.

There’s no mystery to solve here. The reason Obamacare has failed is because certain ACA provisions, such as the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, are pushing an increasingly larger number of uninsured, sick patients into the health insurance pool without incentivizing healthier people to join as well. ACA supporters believe this problem will be solved when the individual mandate penalty for not having insurance reaches a level that’s so high all people will essentially be forced to buy insurance, but Medicaid expansion, high levels of student loan debt, a sluggish economy, and high premiums could mean more young people and healthy middle-aged Americans enroll in Medicaid expansion, Obamacare alternatives, or less-expensive or catastrophic health insurance plans, rather than pay the higher premiums required by many of the higher-end Affordable Care Act health insurance policies, such as Silver Plans or Gold Plans.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicaid rolls expanded in states without Medicaid expansion by 10 percent since July–September 2013, but they expanded by 34 percent in states with Medicaid expansion over the same period. Since the end of 2013, the number of people enrolled in Medicaid has risen by 14 million.

Health insurance premiums continue to go up, access to quality care continues to fall, and insurance providers are pulling their ACA exchange offerings in significant numbers. Happy anniversary Obamacare, and thanks for nothing.

This article was originally posted at Heartland.org