ObamaCare is teetering toward single-payer


Over the next five months, Americans will witness several “exits” in both the political and healthcare arenas. On Jan. 20, 2017, President Obama will exit the White House. Up until and beyond that date, the number of insurance providers exiting hundreds of marketplace exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as ObamaCare, will continue to grow. When insurers exit the exchanges, consumers have fewer choices for coverage (and in some instances, none) and pay more for healthcare insurance, exacerbating rather than rectifying the president’s promised outcomes and objectives of ObamaCare.

{mosads}In April, UnitedHealth became one of the first large nationwide insurers to announce that it would cut back its participation and begin operating only in a “handful” of the ObamaCare exchanges in 2017. The company cited the unstable dynamic of the exchanges, as well its loss of $475 million in 2015 and a projected $650 million loss in 2016. In July, after losing nearly $1 billion in a year, Humana announced it will operate in only 11 states in 2017, down from 19 states in 2016. In August, Aetna announced it was reducing participation in ObamaCare by more than two-thirds after suffering a loss of more than $200 million in the second quarter of 2016 and more than $430 million since 2014.

The McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform, which studies the ACA and its implications, showed in an Aug. 18 analysis that the percentage of counties in the U.S. with five or more participating insurance carriers remaining in the exchanges will likely shrink from 51 percent in 2016 to 31 percent in 2017, and the number of counties having only one carrier participating will likely grow from 2 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in 2017. Pinal County in Arizona found out in August that it will have no insurance carriers participating in ObamaCare exchanges in 2017.

This massive insurer exodus from Obamacare markets not only creates a shrinking pool of competition and narrower networks, but could also be setting the stage for something far more devastating: the inevitable push for a single-payer or public option to either be added to, or replace, ObamaCare.

In an Aug. 2 Journal of the American Medical Association article, President Obama, despite the overwhelming evidence that heavy-handed government control has not worked to make quality healthcare more affordable, called for adding a public option; more tax dollars to prop up the exchanges; more government bureaucrats and politicians making decisions on how healthcare is delivered to our nation’s citizens; and pharmaceutical price controls, which would destroy research and development and deny patients access to promising new therapies.

One need only to look at the Veterans Administration to understand what a government-run, single-payer healthcare system looks like. Horror stories of long waits for treatment, bureaucratic inertia, fraud, incompetence, cover-ups and politics abound.

Others in favor of a complete government takeover demand “Medicare for all,” also a single-payer system, ignoring the fact that on its current trajectory, the Medicare trust fund will be depleted in 2028, two years earlier than projected in 2015. Only massive tax hikes, budget cuts to other government programs, or more borrowing will save it.

These pro-single payer zealots want to emulate the disastrous single-payer systems adopted in other countries, where program costs exceeded expectations and rose faster than predicted, price controls were enacted, rationing became necessary and higher taxes were imposed to cover ballooning costs. Indeed, they are pushing hard for the United States to replicate these failed policies on an even grander scale.

They are ignoring the results so far of ObamaCare: numerous co-op failures costing billions of dollars, skyrocketing premiums and crippling deductibles across the country. With a slew of insurers exiting the ObamaCare exchanges, the nation’s healthcare system is now even more perplexing and costly.

With about two months left until the presidential election, it is time to start thinking critically about healthcare and why moving toward a propped-up ObamaCare or adopting a single-payer approach are not the answers to fixing the country’s broken healthcare system.

Creating an environment where a true market-based system can flourish and in which the purchasing power and healthcare decision-making stands with consumers, not with Washington politicians and bureaucrats, is the way to go.

Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.



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