October 31, 2016
Factchecking Obama’s Recent Bogus Obamacare Claims
President Obama won Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” award in 2013 for his “If you like your health care plan you can keep it” whopper. But given his recent bogus claims about Obamacare—even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence—Obama must be trying to be a two-time “Lie of the Year” winner.
Just look at some of the claims he recently made in a speech to students at Miami Dade College.
Most Americans aren’t affected by the big premium increases. Obama told the students, “So let’s start with a basic fact. The majority of Americans do not—let me repeat—do not get health care through the Affordable Care Act.”
The president correctly points out that roughly 80 percent of the public get their health coverage either through the government (Medicare, Medicaid and the military, more than 100 million people) or through an employer (about 160 million workers and their dependents). In other words, the large majority doesn’t get health coverage through the collapsing Obamacare exchanges.
But it is absolutely false to assert that the ACA doesn’t affect them except, he says, to make their coverage better. All private qualified insurance must meet Obamacare’s cost-increasing mandates, and by 2018 perhaps one-in-four employees will be hit by the Cadillac-tax that caps tax-free coverage. Employer-provided coverage is also seeing rising premiums and canceled policies—just not as extensive as in the exchanges.
More importantly, Democrats who wrote and passed Obamacare thought the exchanges were a great innovation that would make the health insurance market work the way progressives thought it should. Now they are trying to deflect the exchange-blame by claiming the vast majority of Americans aren’t affected by Obamacare.
We needed the ACA because of preexisting conditions. Obama has repeatedly claimed that uninsured people with a preexisting medical condition were being denied coverage, so he had to mandate that insurers accept them, known as “guaranteed issue.”
But guaranteed issue already applied to that 80 percent with government or employer-provided coverage.
In addition, some 20 million Americans bought their own coverage in the individual (i.e., non-group) market before Obamacare, so apparently a preexisting condition didn’t stop them.
And most of the uninsured were (1) qualified for government coverage but chose not to enroll, (2) healthy and didn’t want to spend the money, or (3) undocumented immigrants who don’t typically buy coverage—and all three factors remain a problem.
Yes, there were some who had been denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, but it was a relatively small number. And there were, of course, many who couldn’t afford coverage. Both problems were easily and affordably fixable and would have had wide bipartisan support—had the president just wanted to solve those problems.
If deductibles and copays are increasing, blame insurers and employers. The president went through a list of “improvements” mandated by Obamacare, all of which increase the cost of coverage—which Obama refuses to acknowledge. “It’s because of your employer or your insurer—even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up. It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.”
Actually, Mr. President, it is.
For example, it’s only “free” preventive care—one of the benefits he often cites—because the cost of that care has been factored into premiums paid by individuals, employers or the government (i.e., taxpayers). Another example: Most standard health insurance policies previously had a lifetime coverage limit of $1 million or $2 million. The ACA removes those limits, but that change comes with a cost.
Ironically, in the same speech Obama claimed that some people are seeing significant health insurance premium increases because health insurers initially didn’t charge enough. So which is it: uncaring employers and insurers needlessly jacking up premiums, or foolish employers and insurers who should have charged much more?
Health care spending has declined because of Obamacare.The president told the students, “This law has actually slowed down the pace of health care inflation.”
Tell that to people who have seen their premiums double—or more.
The ACA passed Congress in 2010, but the major health insurance reforms didn’t go into effect until 2014. The Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker shows that health care cost increases dropped significantly from 2002 (8.6%) to 2008 (3.7%), remained flat for the next four years, and then dropped to 2.1 percent in 2013—the year before Obamacare kicked in. When Obamacare was activated in 2014, health spending increased 4.5 percent, and is predicted to gradually increase for years to come.
So, yes, health care spending increases had declined—up until Obamacare coverage began, whereupon spending exploded.
The reason Republicans won’t work with Obama. The president thinks Obamacare’s problems are minor and could be easily fixed if only Republicans would work with him. But they won’t because, “Well, part of the problem is the fact that a Democratic President named Barack Obama passed the law. And that’s just the truth.”
The truth is that many health policy analysts explained exactly what would happen under Obamacare. (Here’s one of mine.) And when Republicans tried to point out those problems, Obama and his fellow Democrats ridiculed them and predicted Obamacare would lead to a grateful electorate and decades of Democratic majorities. Now Obama wants Republicans to help keep his “signature legislation” from collapsing.