The Affordable Care Act, or the ACA as it is commonly abbreviated, was supposed to be the balm to all of our broken healthcare system wounds. Implemented in 2014, “Obamacare” was going to increase the number of people with health insurance, lower premiums by fostering competition between insurance companies, and increase coverage for benefits aimed at preventing illness.
It turns out that while more people are in fact covered, many of them are covered because they now qualify for Medicaid, the government’s health insurance system for the indigent. Also, because the ACA mandates it, a laundry list of preventive services are covered at no charge. But what about premiums? They’re definitely up, and have continued to increase every year since 2014.
What’s even more disturbing is that the competition in the market, which was supposed to guarantee that premiums stayed affordable, is quickly evaporating before our very eyes. The number of insurance companies that plan to sell coverage on the state’s health insurance exchanges during the 2017 enrollment period is dwindling – so much so that in some areas, people only have one or two carriers to choose from.
Even those who can now afford coverage because they receive government subsidies to help pay for their monthly premiums find that they don’t benefit from having coverage, because the deductibles are so high. With deductibles reaching as high as $11,000 per year for a family with some policies, many are left paying significant out-of-pocket costs before their coverage kicks in.
The group that’s probably the most underserved in today’s health insurance landscape are those who earn just enough to keep them from qualifying from a subsidy, and have to pay exceptionally high premiums with no help. Unfortunately for those people, there’s no relief in sight. Often for these people, it would cost less for them to pay the government’s penalty for not carrying health insurance than to pay monthly premiums.
Some would suggest that more government intervention, and more control over the marketplace is the answer. But since when has more government involvement in anything resulted in lower prices or a better functioning system? I certainly can’t give you any examples.
What do you think? Do we need more or less government involvement in the system to make health insurance more affordable?
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.