Reality Check: Is Obamacare 'Working Pretty Well in the Real World'?

Posted: Oct 03, 2014 3:56 PM

In his speech at Northwestern yesterday (which happened to coincide with a pair of high-dollar Chicago fundraisers, with taxpayers paying for the trip), the President Obama stated unequivocally that his agenda is "on the ballot" this fall; voters will have the chance to endorse or reject "every single one" of his policies, he said. We wrote about the significance of those remarks earlier, agreeing with the Washington Post's expectation that Republicans would quickly pounce on Obama's words.  The GOP has done exactly that.  An email blast from the Republican National Committee highlighted Obama's nationalizing of the election, and three Senate candidates have already built web videos and campaign ads around his comments:

Elsewhere in his self-congratulatory speech, the president ridiculed Obamacare opposition as a Fox News conspiracy, untethered to 'real world' outcomes. "While good, affordable health care might seem to be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it turns out its 's working pretty well in the real world," he snarked. This statement echoes the assertions of liberal blogger Ezra Klein, whose claims I dealt with at some length last week. The American people aren't buying it.  Results from two new surveys, via Fox News and NPR's bipartisan pollsters, respectively:



Notice the key similarity? A 55 percent majority opposes the law in both polls, each of which shows Obamacare underwater by double digits. NPR's battleground survey shows independents disapproving of the law by a yawning 27-point margin.  The American people's lasting distaste for the law isn't based on propaganda; it's firmly rooted in broken promises and personal experiences.  And the hits just keep on coming.  News accounts from this week alone:

(1) Thousands of consumers who were granted a reprieve to keep insurance plans that do not meet the federal health law’s standards are learning that those plans will be discontinued at year’s end and they’ll have to choose a new, possibly more costly policy...One reason behind the switch is that insurers found they can make more money selling plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act, often at higher premiums that might be subsidized by the government.

(2) Seniors are getting a shock by how much more they will have to pay Highmark Inc for insurance coverage next year, learning in some cases that their monthly premium for Medicare coverage will more than double. The biggest health insurer in [in Pennsylvania] blames [Obamacare-mandated] cuts in government funding to the Medicare program for rate hikes of 25 percent to 110 percent in its Freedom Blue and Security Blue Medicare Advantage plans, which cover hundreds of thousands of seniors.

(3) Insurance companies with a small share of the health insurance market have virtually disappeared from Obamacare state health care exchanges, replaced by big-foot carriers that have traditionally dominated the market, according to a congressional watchdog study...The GAO analysis is the first federal study published focusing on how competition within the health insurance market has been affected by Obamacare. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who requested the GAO study, told the Washington Examiner that “the GAO report provides evidence that the health care law’s burdensome requirements may be giving an unfair advantage to big insurers over smaller ones.”

(4) The Freelancers Union, which provides health insurance to 25,000 of its members in New York State, is ending an experiment in providing low-cost insurance to independent workers, saying the new landscape created by the federal Affordable Care Act makes it impossible to do so. The union’s decision came after the state gave the Freelancers Insurance Company, which the union created in 2008, a one-year exemption from the act’s provisions so that it would have time to adjust. But officials of the union said on Tuesday that to stay in business as an insurance provider, it would have to raise premiums by 14 percent across the board, a direct conflict with its reason for going into the insurance business in the first place.(5) The Department of Health and Human Services is improperly hiding health insurers' requested rate increases from the public -- in violation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new lawsuit from a former administration health official. States are generally charged with reviewing health insurers' proposed rate increases, but HHS conducts reviews for several states that don't have an effective review program. HHS hasn't lived up to its obligation to make the rate filings available before they take effect so the public has a chance to comment on them, according to the lawsuit. With six weeks until the next enrollment period opens, the department still hasn't made any of the filings for 2015 health plans public, according to the lawsuit from Mehri & Skalet attorney Jay Angoff, who used to oversee ACA implementation for HHS. The lawsuit claims that HHS hasn't made any of the filings public in past years either as required by the department's own regulations.

But Obamacare is "working pretty well in the real world," the president insists, reminding voters that this November presents a referendum on "every single one" of his preferred policies, in the persons of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.