The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers

Democrats and activists fought off Obamacare repeal last year by stoking public outrage and stirring protests. Now they want to make the health law the defining issue in 2018 races at the congressional, state and local levels. The grassroots groups at the forefront of the Obamacare fight are expanding their focus to rally opposition to virtually all Republican efforts to alter the health care system, hoping to capitalize on the backlash to repeal and turn it into a wave of victories come November.

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War On Drugs: We recently speculated that ObamaCare might have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has in turn driven down life expectancy in this country for the past two years. A new Senate report adds further support to this connection.

The report, produced by the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s majority staff, provides convincing evidence that ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion is at least partly to blame for the recent opioid epidemic.

The Senate report notes that those with a Medicaid card can get prescriptions for opioids, such as oxycodone, for as little as $1 for up to 240 pills. Those pills, however, can be sold on the street for up to $4,000.

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Mainstream Democrats are clamoring for Canadian-style single-payer health care — a demand once relegated to the far-left fringe of the party.

Sixteen Senate Democrats, including several with aspirations for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020, have signed onto Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” plan. Fealty to single-payer is already proving a litmus test for Democrats running for public office in blue states like California.

The increasing idolization of our northern neighbor’s health system is ironic, as Canada’s single-payer system — which I grew up under — just experienced its worst year ever.

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Due to the inexorable aging of the country—and equally unstoppable growth in medical spending—it was long obvious that health-care jobs would slowly take up more and more of the economy. But in the last quarter, for the first time in history, health care has surpassed manufacturing and retail, the most significant job engines of the 20th century, to become the largest source of jobs in the U.S.

In 2000, there were 7 million more workers in manufacturing than in health care. At the beginning of the Great Recession, there were 2.4 million more workers in retail than health care. In 2017, health care surpassed both.

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In “Is Obamacare Harming Quality? (Part 1),” Michael Cannon explains that new research shows that Obamacare is not working how it is supposed to work in theory: The law’s preexisting conditions provisions create perverse incentives for insurers to reduce the quality of coverage; those provisions are reducing the quality of coverage relative to employer plans; and the erosion in quality is likely to accelerate in the future. In this post, he explains why regulators cannot fix this problem, and why providing sick patients secure access to quality health care requires allowing consumers to purchase health plans not subject to Obamacare’s preexisting conditions provisions.

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Cannon offers new research showing that Obamacare’s preexisting condition provisions create perverse incentives for insurers to reduce the quality of coverage, reducing the quality of coverage relative to employer plans.  The erosion in quality is likely to accelerate in the future. In a follow-up post, he explains why regulators cannot fix this problem and why providing sick patients secure access to quality health care requires allowing consumers to purchase health plans not subject to Obamacare’s preexisting conditions provisions.

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Seemingly lost in the news of last week’s big tax-cut victory for the GOP was the repeal of the individual mandate — the Obamacare provision that required Americans to have health coverage or else pay a penalty. This is, to borrow a phrase from Vice President Joe Biden, a “big f***ing deal.” It is a big victory for conservatives, who disdained the mandate as government coerciveness. But from a broader perspective, the rise and fall of the mandate is yet another example of how Congress struggles to regulate the national economy.
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Congressional Republicans’ move to scrap the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is likely to drive up sales of cheap, short-term health plans that do not have Obamacare’s consumer protections or benefits, health insurance experts say — a development that could further destabilize the Obamacare exchanges.

The GOP’s final tax legislation, which is now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, eliminates in 2019 the ACA’s mandate requiring most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. For 2018, the penalty is set at $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

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As President Donald Trump completes his first year in office, Americans are increasingly concerned about health care, and their faith that government can fix it has fallen.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 48 percent named health care as a top problem for the government to focus on in the next year, up 17 points in the last two years.

The poll allows Americans to name up to five priorities and found a wide range of top concerns, including taxes, immigration and the environment. But aside from health care, no single issue was named by more than 31 percent.

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Washington continues to debate health policy as if the number of people covered by government insurance programs is the key measurement of success. This week brought more evidence that the ObamaCare experiment of signing up millions more people for subsidized coverage has not made Americans healthier.

“Life expectancy in the United States fell for the second year in a row in 2016,” NBC News reports this week. The network quotes the government’s National Center for Health Statistics:

“This was the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has declined two years in a row since declines in 1962 and 1963,” the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

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