The Republican House health-insurance reform bill would replace Obamacare with a more consumer-driven system. Rather than having many provisions take effect in 2020, Congress should pass it soon and make it effective next year. But it is getting attacked from both the right and the left. What’s missing from the news coverage is improvements in the new bill. Here are six:
1. No employer mandate.
2. Refundable tax credits to buy health insurance.
3. Expansion of HSAs and FSAs.
4. Move Medicaid patients to regular coverage.
5. Lower costs for the young.
6. Incentives to keep coverage.
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Obamacare was supposed to reduce health expenses for Americans, but that’s not how it’s working out.
Although many have benefited from government subsidies or the ability to buy insurance, health-care costs continue to rise and eat up a bigger percentage of household budgets.
In a recent though little-noticed study, economist Ann C. Foster at the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that health costs made up a record 8% of an average household’s budget in 2014, the last year for which data is available.
That’s a 40% jump compared to 10 years ago, and a 21% increase since 2010, the year the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. Parts of the law were implemented shortly afterward but it wasn’t until 2014 that most of it took effect.
The Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate has at least modestly led to a rise in involuntary part-time employment, according to a Goldman Sachs study released Wednesday.
“We would estimate that a few hundred thousand workers might be working part-time involuntarily as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” said Alec Phillips, an economist at the investment bank, in a research note.
This is only a fraction of the 6.4 million workers employed part-time for economic reasons, he said, but would be a significant share of the “underemployment gap.”
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Americans have found that health-care expenses for many individuals and families are higher, their insurance costs are higher, their choice of doctors and insurance is diminished, and the total costs of the program are burdening a weak economy. Had members of Congress known then what they know now, they would never have passed Obamacare.
This week, as part of the reconciliation bill, Congress may vote on bailing out health-insurance companies losing money from their participation in the Affordable Care Act exchanges. With an $18 trillion national debt, Congress should stand firm and say no to the bailouts.
Insurance companies were relying on payments from the federal government to constrain their losses as part of a device known as “risk corridors.” Risk corridors allow the government to bear a portion of the costs if they become too high. Section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act states that the secretary of HHS can reimburse insurance companies if the costs of covering sick people exceed the premiums received. However, the act did not provide an appropriation for these funds. In order for risk-corridor funds to be distributed, Congress has to appropriate them.