The government spin doctors would have us believe that Obamacare is the most successful federal program ever. Just the other day, I saw an ad on a city bus that said people enrolled in healthcare.gov are saving as much as 75% on their healthcare costs. Since my family’s health insurance premium nearly doubled when we were forced to switch to Obamacare and is about to go up nearly $100 per month beginning in January, I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw this dreadful lie strewn across the side of a bus!
But here’s the latest real news: United Healthcare, the largest insurer in the program, is bleeding money on their healthcare.gov plans, and they announced last week that they may pull out of Obamacare in 2017.
The Week offered this analysis of the situation:
United announced during an investor briefing Thursday that it was expecting a whopping $425 million hit on its earnings this year, primarily due to mounting losses on its ObamaCare exchange business. “We cannot sustain these losses,” United CEO Stephen Hensley declared. “We can’t really subsidize a marketplace that doesn’t appear at the moment to be sustaining itself.”
Avik Roy, who serves as GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s health care advisor, suspects United may just be the first domino to fall. Other commercial insurers, such as Aetna, Anthem, and Cigna, have raised premiums by double digits and still say they can’t make the numbers work in their favor. Hence, they have withdrawn from counties where their losses were particularly acute.
For-profit companies that have shareholders breathing down their necks don’t have much latitude to absorb losses. But even companies that don’t face similar profit-maximizing pressures can’t escape the basic dilemma confronting the industry. For example, state filings of the non-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield show that the company barely broke even in the first half of 2015. In Texas last year, BCBS collected $2.1 billion in premiums and paid out $2.5 billion in claims. If ObamaCare’s condition worsens, such companies will have to scale back their participation too.
As someone who has tried to navigate the use of an Obamacare policy, this news mostly makes me happy, as I look forward to having some control over our health insurance choices again. However, it simultaneously frightens me as I worry about how the government will clumsily try to redirect those of us in healthcare.gov plans that get cut because the insurers just can’t make the business models work.
The rollercoaster ride that is healthcare.gov continues to thrill and terrorize the American public. We can only hope the 2016 election will bring in leaders who think more rationally and who can clean up the Obamacare mess!