Obamacare's Affordability Squeeze

By Daily Editorials

November 6, 2015 3 min read

Five years after it was enacted, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is wheezing. So is its offshoot Covered California. The third year of open enrollment, which began Sunday, so far has avoided the computer malfunctions of previous years.

But, as its name implies, the ACA was supposed to provide affordable medical insurance for all Americans, either through their own insurance companies or through government programs, such as Covered California. But the opposite is happening.

A new study of the medical insurance industry by McKinsey & Co. found: "Although individual market revenues have grown, payers lost $2.5 billion in 2014." For insurance companies to avoid bankruptcy, they will have to charge higher premiums or quit. The Wall Street Journal reported, "A number of insurance start-ups are shutting down, including many of the law's 23 cooperative insurers."

The Journal highlighted the plight of Peter Wainwright, 63, a retired telecommunications worker in Half Moon Bay, who gets insurance through Covered California. "He and his wife don't get a subsidy and pay about $2,230 a month, and the rate is increasing for 2016," according to the Journal. Mr. Wainwright himself said, "Everything has gone up."

Another problem is enrollment. The San Jose Mercury News noted that Covered California "was the country's darling in the first year of Obamacare, getting 1.1 million uninsured people to enroll in private plans in 2014." Since then, the number has increased only to 1.3 million.

The slack was taken up by Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid, the health program for poor people, which saw enrollment rise by 4 million, to 12 million, one third of the state. This puts many Californians in a dilemma: If they're in the middle class, their premiums soar. But if they drop into the ranks of the poor, the can get coverage through the highly subsidized Medi-Cal program.

In their revamped debate format, the Republican candidates for president should take up their several ideas to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. This system was supposed to help the middle class get "affordable care," but has done the opposite.


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