Republicans have been predicting the failure of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since President Obama signed it into law in 2010. Once again Republicans are predicting failure as some insurance companies are pulling out of some state Obamacare exchanges saying they can’t make a profit. However, the only healthcare horror story in Iowa is Branstad’s Medicaid privatization. Branstad’s Medicaid folly has resulted in months of mismanagement, unanswered questions, lack of payments to providers and cuts to services for Medicaid recipients. Republicans need to clean their own house of horrors rather than try to find fault with Obamacare’s successes.
What Republicans often fail to mention is that other companies are joining or expanding the Obamacare exchanges and many companies are profitable. In Iowa, there is very good news for Obamacare. Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurance provider of individual policies in the state, is joining the Iowa Obamacare exchange in 2017. Wellmark has the potential to dramatically increase enrollments on the exchange and improve Iowa health care.
Overall, Obamacare measured by nearly every matrix is succeeding.
- Iowa saw an increase of 25% in the 2016 enrollment to 48,949 vs. 2015 enrollment of 39,090. In 2014 the Iowa enrollment was only 29,163.
- Nationally, 12.7 million Americans enrolled in Obamacare in 2016, an increase of 1 million from the 11.7 million enrolled in 2015.
- The national uninsured rate has dropped to an all-time low. Over 16 million Americans now have health insurance coverage thanks to Obamacare.
- Health care spending costs slowed between 2010 and 2014 to 3.6% from a predicted increase of 5.4%. The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation provides evidence that the slowing of health care costs will help save Americans trillions of dollars between 2014 and 2019.
- In 2015 the Congressional Budget Office predicted that Obamacare costs will be nearly 27% lower than their original 2010 estimates. That is due in part to reducing the increases in health care costs.
- Obamacare is truly revolutionizing health care management through Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high quality care to their Medicare patients. The goal is to ensure that all patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time.
- Of the Iowans using Obamacare insurance exchange plans, 87% qualify for subsidies that reduce their average after subsidy premiums to slightly over $100 per month.
The Republicans in Congress have wasted taxpayer dollars by voting to repeal Obamacare over 50 times. In Iowa we will have more insurance companies participating in 2017 than ever before. In 2015 Iowa had two insurance companies in the Iowa exchange. In 2017 Iowa will have four insurance companies participating in the Iowa exchange.
The major good news is Iowa’s largest insurance provider, Wellmark, will join the exchange in 2017. (Wellmark is the largest carrier in Iowa’s individual market and hasn’t participated in the exchange previously). Wellmark promises “new and improved” health plans, which should greatly expand enrollment sign-ups in Iowa. Wellmark will be available in 47 of the state’s 99 counties, working through the Mercy Health Network HMO.
Wellmark has not been able to offer their customers subsidies until they joined the exchange. Now their expansion into the exchange means that enrollees who qualify for premium subsidies and cost-sharing subsidies will be able to get them in 2017 and also keep the name brand carrier they already know. Wellmark had 137,000 individual insurance members in 2015. This is a huge new pool that could purchase their Wellmark policies on the exchange in 2017 and qualify for subsides.
Democrats are quick to admit Obamacare can always be improved, but Republicans offer no alternatives. Rising health care costs combined with rising insurance costs are forcing some Americans to forgo coverage. Others must choose between buying insurance and other basic family needs. Democrats must assist those families that are still struggling to obtain affordable insurance coverage.
Hillary Clinton has been a longtime proponent of a public option and promises to pursue that if elected president. It’s clear that giving consumers more choice and providing more competition with a public option would be helpful.
by Rick Smith
Photo via Wiki Commons