When President Obama was selling the government health care takeover to Congress and the American people, he repeatedly promised that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, would keep health insurance companies “honest” and held “accountable” for providing affordable, quality health care to Americans.
Over the past five and a half years the country has experienced the unraveling of this unworkable law as millions of Americans continue to struggle with higher health care premiums, increased out-of-pocket costs, less choice and greater health uncertainty. Americans are paying more for out-of-pocket for health care now than they did in the past decade.
Most still remember the president’s famous words, “if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.” But for many, that’s turned out to be another unfulfilled Obamacare promise. Now, insurance companies are preparing to gouge consumers with massive premium increases. Estimates for 2016 show that insurance companies around the country are seeking premium rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under Obamacare turned out to be sicker than expected.
Not only are insurance companies shifting more costs onto patients, but across the country, insurers are restricting access to care and choice by limiting the number of doctors and hospitals they provide in a coverage network. Insurance plans on government-run Obamacare exchanges on average have 34 percent fewer hospitals and doctors — including specialists — in their provider networks than health policies sold outside those exchanges or offered by employers.
The fact is insurance companies are knowingly violating the intent of Obamacare, which was to provide quality health care and improved choices in services through more competition. Instead, insurers are keeping patients from seeing the physicians or specialists they need and, as a result, forcing many Americans to choose between taking on the financial burden of out-of-network costs or forgoing treatment altogether.
Meanwhile, as Americans are suffering from rising costs and less access to quality health care, the biggest winners from the passage of Obamacare are the insurance giants. In the aftermath of the government health care takeover, there has been an explosion of health insurance company profits, windfalls and megamergers. As “stock market darlings,” health insurance company profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs and stocks have split even thanks to the health care law.
Reports show the so-called “Big Five” health insurers – UnitedHealth, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and Anthem – have all outperformed the broader stock market by a wide margin since Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010. That’s why America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group, filed an amicus brief to defend the Obama administration in the recent Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell. And when the law was upheld, it was no surprise that there was a boost in health insurance company stocks.
The reality is that health insurance companies are growing wealthier and less accountable for their actions under Obamacare, and hard-working American families are paying the price. Americans don’t need more cronyism when it comes to their health care. Americans need competition to improve quality and lower cost. It’s time for new leadership in the White House to rein in insurance companies’ runaway power and address the challenges we face under this deeply flawed law so we can finally give the American people the transparency and accountability they were promised.