Hillary Clinton is attacking rival Bernie Sanders, calling his plan to replace Obamacare with socialist single payer healthcare a "risky deal" and unaffordable. She's telling Democrats the survival of the Affordable Care Act depends on her winning the presidency. "The stakes couldn't be higher," she warned Iowa voters. Sunday night at the primary debate she repeated it, claiming a Clinton presidency is all that stands between Obamacare and its demise.
Not so fast, Clinton. Obamacare is on the ropes, and it still will be, even if you're elected president. You're not leveling with the public about the health law's disastrous condition.
Humana is now the third major insurer — following UnitedHealthcare and Cigna — to report huge losses selling Obamacare plans. Industry experts predict these insurers are likely to abandon Obamacare altogether at the end of 2016.
More bad news: Enrollment figures for 2016 aren't looking good, with fewer young adults (profitable for insurance companies) are signing up than in the past. Obamacare is in what the insurance industry calls a "death spiral."
But Clinton isn't acknowledging that. Instead, she's proposing minor adjustments, such as Alzheimer's research and new autism programs. That's like buying wiper blades when your transmission is shot.
Clinton's challenge from the left is forcing her to misrepresent the health law, calling its problems mere "glitches" and deceiving the public on its impact on the nation's budget. Clinton defends Obamacare by saying, "I don't want to rip it up and start over."
Sanders proposes a Medicare-for-all system popular with Democratic primary voters. Clinton claims Sanders' proposal would increase the deficit and necessitate middle class tax hikes. "We think the voters in Iowa should be able to hear how Sen. Sanders would pay for that proposal," her campaign said yesterday.
What she is not telling voters — though the writing is on the wall — is that Obamacare is already hugely in the red, and taxes would have to be hiked substantially to make it "paid for."
The Congressional Budget Office just reported that over the next 10 years, Obamacare's entitlements will cost $516 billion more than the law's taxes and penalties will take in.
Clinton's promises her approach is "a responsible way, paid for in ways we can afford." Paid for? Impossible — unless her vow not to raise taxes on the middle class is a blatant lie.
She's touting her soak-the-rich 4 percent surcharge on millionaires. But it will raise only $150 billion over 10 years. That's chump change compared with the Obamacare deficit, never mind the many other spending programs she's proposing.
Clinton's also ignoring the discouraging news rolling in daily about Obamacare plans. Insurers have already racked up billions in losses selling Obamacare, and nonprofit co-ops selling the plans are in the red too. More than half of co-ops are already bankrupt.
"Unless some fundamental flaws are corrected," said Aetna in a letter to the Obama administration, "there is a grave risk that the federal exchange will not operate as a viable, competitive market in 2017." Also, add Blue Cross Blue Shield to the list of panicked insurers.
Clinton pledges tougher regulations on health insurers. It's a campaign crowd-pleaser but hardly the answer with insurers already heading for the exits. Once they leave, Obamacare is dead.
Why the losses? Too few customers are signing up, and those who do are older and sicker than what is needed to keep an insurer profitable. This year so far 26 percent of sign ups are in the young adult age group, down from 28 percent. The trend is bad. Young, healthy people are staying away, despite having to pay big penalties for going uninsured.
Last year, a whopping 7.5 million paid the penalty, and millions more weaseled exemptions. More than half the uninsured eligible for Obamacare chose not to sign up. Obama is willing to take "no" for an answer. Don't count on Clinton to be so forgiving.
In the past, she's told Congress that if people don't sign up for mandatory health insurance, they should be automatically enrolled. If they fail to pay, their wages should be garnished. Yikes. It's doubtful Americans would put up with that.
The truth is, electing Clinton won't save Obamacare. Claiming otherwise is a lie.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution." To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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