The other GOP: Grand Obamacare Promises

Politicians are in the promises business. “Elect me and wonderful things will happen.” I don’t say that cynically; I’ve been on the ballot six times myself. Voters want to know, “How will you make my life better?” and candidates have to make their case.

For a massive federal program, the president who championed it will probably be out of office before we can really know whether or not they met their promises. Now that President Obama has one foot out the door, it’s a good time to look at the claims he made while campaigning for Obamacare and how they’ve panned out. Sean Ross has an intriguing analysis concisely laying out the case that Obama’s promises and claims are not even close to being fulfilled.

Promises vs. reality
: Obamacare will “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year”
Reality: Premiums for employer-sponsored plans for a “typical family” are up by $5,000. This is in spite of the fact that deductibles are also higher. When health care costs shoot up, that’s money a company can’t offer employees as wages or salaries. “Family plans” paid out of pocket are up an average of 3%, which doesn’t sound so bad, but a 3% rise is not a $2,500 decrease. Want to know why wages and salaries are flat in an economy that is growing? This is a big part of the answer.

Promise: Obamacare will “cover every American”
Reality: If Obamacare has a “success,” it’s in lowering the rate of the uninsured. This has been achieved almost entirely through expanding Medicaid – and comes with the usual caveat that “coverage” and doesn’t always result in “health care.” Some say, rather than go through the upheaval and complications of Obamacare, it would have been a lot simpler just to expand Medicaid and achieve basically the same result. The rate of uninsured has dropped from 13.3% to 10.4% under the new law. Does Obamacare “cover every American”? I guess that depends on what the president meant – that everyone would receive coverage, or that everyone would be subject to the law? Some people paying for the individual mandate for the first time ever when they file their taxes this spring will find that Obamacare does indeed “cover” them.

Promise: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”
Reality: The actual regulations that were written after Obamacare passed resulted in many plans being cancelled, surprising people and leaving them to find new coverage to replace the plans they already had and liked. PolitiFact called the president’s promise “The Lie of the Year.”

Promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in our future”
Reality: By 2025, Obamacare will add $353 billion in deficit spending. That number would be even larger if Obamacare was more successful at attracting sign-ups. 87% of plans obtained through the exchanges are subsidized or free. The money for those subsidies has to come from somewhere, and right now it’s being paid through higher premiums, premium taxes, and deficit spending.

It’s possible to write legislation to lower health care costs. It’s also possible to write legislation to cover more people. It’s awful hard to write a bill that does both, as Obamacare has shown. One of those priorities inevitably must trump the other. If there’s a balance to be struck there, Obamacare didn’t strike it.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.