The truth about Obamacare

Originally published here in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 2, 2015.

WASHINGTON — The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" — Obamacare — has completely failed to live up to its name. As a result, I will vote yes when the Senate votes Thursday to repeal most of its harmful provisions using the budget reconciliation process.

Americans were repeatedly assured by President Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters in Congress that if they liked their health care plans, they could keep them. Instead, millions of Americans were not protected and their policies were canceled. PolitiFact was right to brand this promise the 2013 lie of the year.

Americans also were promised they could keep their doctors. That was a lie. Americans buying plans on Obamacare's government-run "exchanges" are discovering that the networks of providers are often narrower, with fewer choices.

And Americans have seen no evidence that the "Affordable Care Act" has made health care more affordable. The evidence points in the other direction.

One of Obamacare's most disgusting provisions is the special treatment granted to members of Congress and their staffs . Unfortunately, my lawsuit failed to overturn this outrage. I have declined the benefit, so my wife and I buy coverage in Wisconsin. Our premiums increased 38% last year. Our quotes for next year are 10% to 30% higher — and we lose all out-of-network coverage.

Others suffered greater harm. A Spooner woman, 60, wrote me to say she was paying $276 a month for her individual post-retirement plan just before Obamacare. Now, her premium under Obamacare is $662 a month, and it will increase to $787 in January. Because she and her husband responsibly saved for retirement, they don't qualify for any Obamacare subsidy.

A Washburn woman's family policy under Obamacare currently costs $918 a month with a $6,300 deductible. It is rising to $2,398 a month. She can cut that to $1,306 if she accepts a $9,000 deductible — "an astounding total of $24,672 before our insurance pays one dime. That's simply not sustainable for our family," she writes. She is right.

There's more than anecdotal evidence. A report from the Manhattan Institute found that the average cost of the five most affordable health plans available in each county in Wisconsin for a 64-year-old woman averaged $354 a month in 2013. For 2016, that average increased 85%, to $655. Young people fare worse. The same report found that the pre-Obamacare average for a 27-year-old man was $92 a month. In 2016, it will have increased 148%, to $228.

Obamacare is not making health care affordable.

Obamacare's complexity doesn't help. It needlessly adds costs to providers that are passed on to consumers. The law itself has over 380,000 words, but the regulations it's unleashed are far more voluminous. Last time I checked, Obamacare's regulations totaled approximately 19 million words. My dermatologist has had to add three full-time data inputters and his caseload is 90% of pre-Obamacare levels — further anecdotal evidence that Obamacare is increasing costs and reducing access.

Earlier this year, Milwaukee-based Assurant Health, a leader in individual insurance plans, blamed Obamacare as it went out of business. Anthem Blue Cross will no longer sell plans on the Obamacare exchange in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. The largest U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, just announced it's considering withdrawing from Obamacare exchanges nationwide. Rather than reducing the power of large insurers and health care providers, the law has increased their power by encouraging consolidation. That means fewer options for patients.

Obamacare has taken health care in exactly the wrong direction. I didn't like the status quo before Obamacare. Too many federal rules and too much federal money already suppressed the competition that leads to lower prices and higher quality in every other field. Obamacare only worsened those trends.

We need to take American health care in a different direction, toward a free market. We need to devolve power away from Washington and give freedom and choice back to doctors and patients. That starts with repealing Obamacare. I hope the president signs the bill we pass. If he refuses, our repeal is a marker for what a Republican Congress will again pass in 2017 under an administration that is willing to admit the harm done by Obamacare.