Bigger Problems for Obamacare

Rich Galen

12/16/2013 10:00:00 AM - Rich Galen

A poll released yesterday by the Associated Press and GfK demonstrated a point I've been making with eye-glazing regularity: The problems with healthcare.gov will be solved; when they are solved they will reveal a far more damaging problem for the Obama Administration and its Democratic supporters: Obamacare itself stinks.

It was ill conceived, ill designed, ill written, and is being ill implemented.

The problems with healthcare.gov have been a technical failure. The problems with Obamacare are a policy failure.

The lead of the AP story about its own poll is this:

"Americans who already have health insurance are blaming President Barack Obama's health care overhaul for their rising premiums and deductibles."

The AP's analysis of the poll also shows that

"Nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year - mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act."

The reality of employer-sponsored health insurance is companies have been trying to trim costs for many years. They have shifted more of the premium costs to employees and have, in many cases, been looking for cheaper plans - which might have included limiting preventive programs and pharmaceutical costs, reducing in-plan doctors and hospitals, and other savings.

Now, however, companies have an ally in that effort - and employees have a clear target to blame: Obamacare.

When the budget deal was struck last week, the first person to contact me and tell me it was great for the GOP was Mullpal Rick Tyler who pointed out that another drawn-out budget battle would take the focus off the continuing collapse of Obamacare.

However you think about the technical issues involved in the budget deal, as a political matter it is a grand slam for the GOP.

As we move into the new year, more stories will be written about more people who thought they had finally completed the excruciating process of signing up with an exchange on healthcare.gov only to find that the coverage they thought they had purchased had never been sent to the insurance company from which they thought they had purchased it, and have found they and their family are without insurance.

And/or we will have more and more stories that have been reflected in this poll: Far higher premiums than consumers previously paid which, when combined with far higher deductibles, mean they are paying high prices, essentially, to be self-insured - because barring a catastrophe they might not cover their deductible all year.

We will be reading stories about men and women with serious, long-term health issues who have been dropped from their spouses' employer-sponsored plans and are facing tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that had been covered prior to Obamacare.

This has splashed up directly on President Obama. In the poll respondents were asked if they approved or disapproved of the way the President is handling health care. 39 percent approve (10 percentage points were just "leaning" toward approval) and 61 percent disapproved (only 7 percent leaned toward disapproving).

Of those who said they had been contacted about changes in their employer-sponsored health insurance plan:

-- 69% said their premium would be increasing;

-- 59% said their deductible would be increasing;

-- 21% said their plan would be expanding to cover more medical issues;

-- 18% said their plan would be covering fewer medical issues;

-- 14% said coverage for their spouse was being restricted or eliminated:;

-- 11 % said their plan was being discontinued.

Health insurance is terribly complicated for the average consumer. Talk to anyone who has had to pick a Medicare Advantage; Medicare Supplemental; and/or Medicare Part D drug coverage plan.

Too many Americans will not be able to keep their plan; will not be able to keep their doctor; and will not be able to keep their hospital.

If I were advising the GOP committees (which I am not) I would tell them to keep track of every Democratic Member of the House and Senate who voted for Obamacare in 2010 and every statement they have made in support of the program in the years since.

The political TV ads will write themselves.