CNN: Hey, were Americans misled about the costs of ObamaCare?

posted at 5:21 pm on March 28, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Things that could have been brought to our attention….three years ago!

This segment is a bit myopic, dealing mostly with whether Sec. Kathleen Sebelius said this (yes, she did) and one study that shows costs going up. But it’s decent as far as it goes, and we could have used a whole lot more such mildly critical reporting before the bill was passed.

If CNN cared to look beyond the one Society of Actuaries study it allows the White House to trash as insurance-industry aligned, they’d find plenty of studies from the government itself that show overall health care costs rising, individual premiums rising, and costs higher over the next 10 years than they would have been without passing ObamaCare. That last is an important point because the administration loves to blame quickly rising premiums on evil insurance companies or the fact that they were already rising before ObamaCare. The fact is, the trajectory has changed, especially in the individual market, because of ObamaCare. Insuring more people and mandating more comprehensive coverage makes insurance more expensive. This was obvious to anyone who cared to think about it before the law was passed, but anyone who cared to point it out was called a dirty liar by the bill’s proponents. (Here’s a full write-up on the Actuaries’ report and its conclusions and design. It is considered an expert, reliable report by most everyone but the White House, but as with any one study, it has limitations.)

Now, the truth can be told. Yes, advocates exclaim, some people’s premiums are of course going to go up! Duh, silly billies! That’s because we’re insuring more sick and old people and making those scofflaw young and healthy folks pay their fair share (i.e. far more than their low level of risk requires in a free market) to subsidize it. Also, the young and healthy we’re making buy insurance can only buy super-comprehensive coverage they don’t need, which is more expensive, but they’re really gonna love all the new services they get. Plus, subsidies will mask the cost of some of this.

A couple problems. That wasn’t the pitch for the bill. The pitch for the bill was that we would get more coverage for more people, AND premiums would go down, AND the health care cost curve would bend down for the government, AND it wouldn’t add a dime to the deficit, AND everyone who liked their insurance would be able to keep it. None of those things is true except for possibly more coverage for more people, and the jury remains out on that, even. Not everyone will qualify for subsidies, and woe betide those among the young and healthy who don’t for they will be paying for more coverage than they need, subsidizing everyone else’s coverage and subsidizing everyone else’s subsidies. And, finally, the extremely complicated formula and mechanism by which subsidies will be decided and delivered— more complicated and comprehensive than any the feds have built before— does not yet exist in any working form. But I’m sure it’ll work out just swimmingly.

Now, proponents will say I’m not allowing for the possibility that all of ObamaCare’s rosiest cost-reducing predictions could turn out to be true and even better than expected, and that the exchange system for delivery thereof will come together seamlessly in the next eight months. Frankly, if rooting for such things to come to pass brought them to fruition, proponents would have the coolest, most comprehensive, affordable Travelocity for health care evah right now. Merely asserting things will work out doesn’t overcome the logistical and economic obstacles the bill is encountering now that it has left the fevered minds of legislators and entered real life. And, hoping everything will work out also doesn’t help those who were relying on the president’s already broken promises of lower premiums and keeping their own insurance. Dealing honestly with the limitations and downsides of this bill would have been most helpful before it was passed, but remains necessary for those of us who will have to deal with them in the real world, where ObamaCare was never going to live up to all its expectations.


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