Remember Bob Laszewski? He's the health insurance industry expert whose generally accurate and prescient criticisms of Obamacare over the span of several years have largely been vindicated by events. He's been watching the steady departure of insurers from the law's failing exchanges (here's the latest example) with increasing concern, warning that the entire system risks implosion within the next year if the current trajectory isn't significantly altered. Watch, via CNBC:
If politicians don't fix the Affordable Care Act, then the vulnerable Blue Cross and local HMO plans — which serve as the backbone of Obamacare — must exit, said Robert Laszewski, the President of Health Policy and Strategy Associates. "What the politicians need to do is to understand they have got about a year to fix this," he said in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell." ... "If we don't get some very significant fixes to Obamacare, the math is simple. These plans can't continue the way it's going. And that undermines the coverage that all of these people have gotten," he said. Laszewski has worked in the insurance business for over 40 years, including 25 within the Washington D.C. area, where he started his own consulting business that specializes in market and health-care policy. Clients include hospitals, physician's offices and insurance companies. His concerns for Obamacare stem from what he says are repetitive situations in each state. The issues cited by Aetna over Obamacare losses are now being echoed in multiple states by almost every company, he said. "State after state, we are seeing exactly the same scenario; losses deteriorating … deteriorating conditions and carriers not being able to continue in the long term."
Spoiler alert: "The politicians" aren't going to "fix" Obamacare. Republicans want the whole mess thrown out and replaced, while Democrats' preferred options -- injecting even more taxpayer money into the void, pushing a private market-destroying "public option," or erecting an unaffordable and immoral single-payer regime -- are politically unreachable. Still, the fact remains that a hugely controversial and expensive law marketed as a legislative panacea with no serious downsides is, in fact, hurting people and betraying the promises made by its supporters. The New York Times reports that as of next year, nearly one in five Americans on Obamacare will have exactly one "choice" on their so-called marketplace's menu (via John Sexton):
So much for choice. In many parts of the country, Obamacare customers will be down to one insurer when they go to sign up for coverage next year on the public exchanges. A central tenet of the federal health law was to offer a range of affordable health plans through competition among private insurers. But a wave of insurer failures and the recent decision by several of the largest companies, including Aetna, to exit markets are leaving large portions of the country with functional monopolies for next year. According to an analysis done for The Upshot by the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform, 17 percent of Americans eligible for an Affordable Care Act plan may have only one insurer to choose next year. The analysis shows that there are five entire states currently set to have one insurer, although our map also includes two more states because the plans for more carriers are not final. By comparison, only 2 percent of eligible customers last year had only one choice.
That's a big leap in one year. The Times also makes note of another glaring Obamacare shortcoming, highlighting the ordeal of one consumer who made the grave mistake of taking Nancy Pelosi at her word:
When Obamacare was developed, one goal was to allow middle-class Americans to use the new marketplaces to buy the same kind of health insurance they had at their jobs. People could retire early, or quit a corporate job and become a freelancer, and still have the great care and financial protection that come with high-end plans. But six years into the health law, the reality is that a typical Obamacare plan looks more like Medicaid, only with a high deductible. The typical marketplace plan covers a small number of low-cost doctors and hospitals, and offers fewer frills than employer plans. The recent high-profile exits of many of the national insurers from markets around the country will only heighten the shift...When the first Obamacare plans were released for 2014, many experts and customers were surprised at how many featured very limited numbers of doctors and hospitals. Three years later, and the trend has only intensified...Although the local Blue Cross plans largely remain, many are sharply narrowing the networks offered by their exchange plans.
When Chris Foley, 42, left his career in finance to begin one in stand-up comedy and acting, he assumed his health insurance would look like the coverage he’d received while working for big banks. The transition was a challenge. First, he bought a plan through a New York State program before Obamacare that had skimpier coverage and bigger deductibles than his corporate plan. Then, when he signed up for his first Obamacare plan in 2014, he found that his doctor of 15 years wasn’t covered by any of the options. He needed a colonoscopy last year, and had a hard time finding a doctor who was covered. He was surprised when he was asked to pay $450 out of pocket for a prescription drug at the pharmacy. “I was frustrated; I was pretty angry about not having good coverage,” said Mr. Foley, who said he briefly considered a return to the corporate world.
The joke's on him, not to mention the patrons and employees of America's tanning salons. And a fresh batch of significantly higher Obamacare premiums will be announced just prior to the November elections. I'll leave you with another healthcare expert awarding Obamacare a solid 'D' on MSNBC, attributing the downgrade to the program's flaws "getting worse and worse." The doctor also predicts that other major carriers will ultimately end up following the leads of United Healthcare, Aetna and Humana -- an outcome Laszewski warns would spell the law's downfall: