President Barack Obama took to the podium at the White House on Thursday to defend the Affordable Care Act. The law, he said, “is doing what it’s designed to do.”
The president ignored the law’s numerous unintended consequences, touting only the supposed positives. Many Americans, for example, will receive rebates from insurance companies required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on healthcare, he said. But the greatest victory the president touted is in New York, where officials announced this week premiums on the individual market will fall 50 percent on average under Obamacare. “Think about it—50 percent lower,” he said.
Many have thought about it, though, and point to the Empire State’s outlier status as proof it doesn’t really count as a victory. In 1993, New York passed a law requiring insurance companies to accept everyone—and charge everyone the same price. Without an individual mandate to force the young and healthy into the system, rising premiums led that crucial age group to drop out. When Obamacare became federal law, New York’s individual market had premiums $1,000 higher than any other state, and only 17,000 people bought on the individual market. Premiums had nowhere to go but down. Even so, according to Forbes’ analysis, premiums in New York “will remain far higher than they are in other states.”
In addition to New York, the president claimed increased competition is pushing costs down in California, Oregon, and Washington. But Forbes showed a healthy 40-year-old will see rates increase 149 percent in California and as much as 80 percent in Washington state. What makes the law “work”—what New York’s law missed—is that lower premiums for some can only be achieved on the backs of the young and healthy.
Tim Phillips, president of the conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity, responded to Obama’s speech Thursday: “Truly beneficial policy doesn’t require a PR blitz, yet we see Obama highlighting a few minuscule details while ignoring the law’s broad negative impact.”
If the law truly is working as planned, it begs the question why the president voted to delay the employer mandate, which requires companies to provide insurance to employees, by choosing not to enforce it. Not only that, but due to the massive task of verifying applicants’ eligibility for subsidies, the federal government literally will take applicants’ word for it in many states until 2015, inviting fraud. Even with subsidies, though, many of the poor and young may find required insurance unaffordable.
Obama condemned the House for voting Wednesday to delay the individual mandate, even though it has no chance of getting past the Senate or the president. Still, House Republicans continue to fight, a tactic the president doesn’t understand, despite the evidence stacking up against the law.
“We’re refighting these old battles,” Obama said. “Sometimes, I just try to figure out why?”