The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers
In a recent podcast, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol made the observation:
if Obamacare had worked, Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect, right? I do think those those premiums going up two weeks before the election probably moved the necessary number of votes.
That got me to thinking how one might prove this empirically. The short answer is that I cannot prove this proposition beyond a shadow of a doubt, but the evidence is stronger than one might suppose.
To be sure, national exit polls showed that the most important issues in this campaign were the economy (52%), terrorism (18%), immigration (13%) and foreign policy (13%). However, according to David Wasserman’s definitive vote tallies at Cook Political Report, a swing of only 38,595 votes in 3 states (MI, PA, WI) would have given the election to Hillary Clinton. This represents 0.0293% of votes cast, making it the 7th closest presidential election in history in terms of this metric (p. 330). The issue for our purposes here is whether we could make a good case that Obamacare was the factor that led these crucial election-deciding voters to pull the lever for Trump rather than Clinton.
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Hospitals and health insurers are gaining confidence that their nightmare scenario – millions of Americans instantly losing health insurance once President-elect Donald Trump delivers on a promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare – is looking more like a bad dream than becoming reality.
The early view from the healthcare sector still includes an end eventually to President Obama’s signature health program.
But Trump’s picks to head the U.S. health department and its top regulator on Tuesday, along with his recent softening on some aspects of the existing law, is a sign to some sector insiders that instead of chaos, an orderly transition of up to three years to replace it with a plan that healthcare companies actually want could be in store.
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With Trump’s election, there is suddenly a lot of question about the fate of Obamacare. Will it be repealed, in part or in whole? And if so, replaced with what?
One place to look for answers is in a new article about Obamacare’s coverage expansion. Learning more about what has already happened with Obamacare turns out to provide some clues about what may happen to it in the future.
That’s because Molly Frean, Jonathan Gruber and Benjamin D. Sommers provide a detailed look, not just at the amount of coverage expansion but also the sources of it. According to the authors’ analysis, they can explain about 70 percent of the decline in the number of uninsured people through three factors: the subsidies for buying insurance; the law’s more generous criteria for Medicaid eligibility; and the “woodwork effect,” in which people who were previously eligible for Medicaid “came out of the woodwork” and signed up for the program in 2014.
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Recent economic research calls into question the value of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, and indeed the entire Medicaid program. In one study, MIT health economist Amy Finkelstein and her colleagues found that Medicaid produced no discernible improvement in enrollees’ measured physical health outcomes. In another, Finkelstein and colleagues estimated enrollees receive only 20-40 cents of benefit for every dollar the program spends.
Researchers at The Economist went looking for factors to explain why Donald Trump outperformed Mitt Romney’s showing in key states four years prior. They found ”the single best predictor identified so far of the change from 2012 to 2016 in the share of each county’s eligible voters that voted Republican” is how low the county scores on an index of public health measures.
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On Donald Trump’s victory Republicans in Congress are primed for an ambitious agenda, and not a moment too soon. One immediate problem is ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, which has seen enrollment at least twice as high as advertised.
Most of the insurance coverage gains from the law come from opening Medicaid eligibility beyond its original goal of helping the poor and disabled to include prime-age, able-bodied, childless adults. The Supreme Court made this expansion optional in 2012, and Governors claimed not joining would leave “free money” on the table because the feds would pick up 100% of the costs of new beneficiaries.
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The main objective of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to increase enrollment in health insurance among those who were previously uninsured. Official estimates from the Census Bureau have consistently overstated the number of people who are uninsured. A major factor in the overestimate is the undercount of people in Medicaid. Also, millions of Americans have been officially uninsured despite their eligibility for public insurance or employer coverage. With the passage of the ACA, fewer than 10 percent of the remaining uninsured do not have a realistic path to securing health insurance. The future of the ACA is now uncertain, but any future policy changes will likely need to provide a sure path to insurance coverage for all Americans as well.
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President Obama will be leaving office with the Affordable Care Act, his signature policy initiative, in deep peril. An incoming Republican president and Congress, concerned with the cost of ACA exchange plans jumping by an average 25 percent next year and employee health care costs rising, have pledged to repeal the law. For his part, the President sought to shift the blame for rising out-of-pocket cost from the ACA’s flaws to employers and insurers. During a recent speech defending the law, he said the ACA has had no impact on the affordability of employer-provided health care benefits “except to make it a better value.” As the President put it, “if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare. It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up. It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.”
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Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo got into a heated exchange with controversial Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber on Tuesday as the two disagreed over skyrocketing health insurance premiums.
Gruber claimed Obamacare has actually “saved people money,” despite recent damaging headlines indicating President Barack Obama’s signature health care law will cause a 25 percent increase in key premiums. He also claimed the industry is just not “prepared” yet for the “new and innovative insurance market.”
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When the new Congress and President-elect Trump take office in January, Republicans will have a real chance to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. If they succeed, it will be the result of their carefully executed strategy to repeal the law and repeated congressional votes to do so. This approach was the subject of much derision from Democrats, but sticking to it has now put the Republicans in a position where they can reach their goal.
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President-elect Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress can repeal Obamacare pretty easily, but the biggest question is when and if there will be a transition while a replacement gets crafted.
Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare in its entirety and congressional Republicans are on board. However, when the repeal would take effect is largely in doubt, as some Republicans are wary of immediately ending coverage for millions of people without a replacement.
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