The first day of April used to mean April Fool’s pranks, anticipation of hearing “Play Ball,” and scrambling to collect paperwork and find deductions for the looming tax deadline. But for the last two years for me, and presumably millions of Americans, it has meant something else: The opt-in period for my employer health insurance package.
Now April 1 means decision-making time—what to do with all the savings that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, has afforded me. At least that’s what I wish, and what I was told by the President, it meant.
For the second year in a row our company was forced to change its health carrier due to the implementation of ACA, a title with a curious adjective, given the direction of costs. In 2015, Blue Cross/Blue Shield was replaced by Humana. When we were given the cost breakdowns for the various HMO and PPO packages, a new potential cost was added. There on the grid, next to the premium costs for the employee, spouse, and children, in the right-most column was the working spouse surcharge. This meant that employees whose spouses work full-time and are offered insurance by their employer but decide to go on his or her spouse’s insurance plan instead are now subject to a surcharge.
When the ACA was being considered, opponents said that this would happen. They warned that this would cause a disincentive for people to work. How? Because the only way around paying this new expense—which, for me, came out to an extra $5000 a year in premiums—is for the spouse to cut back to part-time. Obamacare defenders called these fears irrational and called their critics partisan, obstructionist, and even racist. Yet the reality for me was my wife had to cut back to 29 hours or less per week so as to not incur the surcharge. So here we have an able-bodied person wanting to put in a full 40, but can’t because of this bill.There it is. A disincentive to work.
This past week our company was forced to change carriers yet again. Why? The exact reason that Obamacare was supposed to stop in its tracks—rising healthcare costs. When negotiating the contract for the new fiscal year, Humana came back with a 31% jump in premiums. The new winner in our company’s annual Who Wants To Be Our Healthcare Provider sweepstakes was United Healthcare, with a winning bid that came to a mere 18% increase from last year. I’m fortunate that my doctor is in both networks. But for those whose doctors are not, the “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” promise by President Obama would not be valid, because what if your doctor dropped you?
Lest we forget, Americans were promised that ACA would bring down healthcare costs by an average of $2500 per year. Everyone I’ve spoken to, save one, has said their healthcare costs have gone up (in some cases, way up) since the passing of Obamacare. The only person I know who has benefited from it is someone who quit her full-time, benefits-included job to go drive for Uber. When I asked what she is doing for health insurance, she said, “Oh, I just went down and signed up for Obamacare, and now I get my insurance for free.” I was appalled. I couldn’t help but think that healthcare is free to her because it is more expensive for me. And all the working stiffs.
What I want to know is, where is the outrage? Why are more Americans not upset at this? People get more worked up at the idiocies spouted by Donald Trump than having their President lie to them about life-and-death issues. Scores of people gather to hear, or protest, Trump speak, but how many of them write their Congressional representatives to see why their insurance premiums have skyrocketed?
Perhaps people aren’t that worked up because of the decade-low prices at the gas pump. Maybe plunging oil prices and sub-$2-a-gallon gasoline have mitigated their anger. I don’t know of any empirical data that backs this, but it is one possible explanation.
I do know this. My healthcare insurance costs have gone up, not down, for the past two years. With more government control and insurance fraud running rampant, there’s no reason to think it won’t continue. This experiment was given a fair shake and it has failed.Given this, and my anger over Obamacare advocate Professor Jonathan Gruber saying Americans are “too stupid to understand,” it seems there is only one thing to do.
Let’s repeal Obamacare.