Thursday, March 21, 2013

Premium increases coming from Obamacare are enough to make you sick

Don't expect any birthday cake and candles (because of the sequester, of course), but Saturday, March 23 marks the three-year anniversary for The Affordable Care Act (a/k/a "Obamacare") in the United States.

While the Obama Administration wants you to think this is cause for celebration, for many Americans, it is actually cause for alarm as it signals sharp increases in health insurance costs in coming years.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently commented that Obamacare is giving consumers “a better bang for their buck,” despite steep rate hikes in some states. Her logic is that, “We have seen far fewer double-digit increases in the last three years than in the previous decade…. And more insurance commissioners, like in California, are really reviewing those rates carefully, are rejecting the double-digit increases.” (Read more in Politico.)

But, looking backwards doesn't tell the whole story. Looking forward, as Obamacare continues to mature, costs are nearly universally projected to keep going up -- sharply. And, according to many experts, the real sticker shock looms not far away on the horizon, coming as early as 2014.

Officials at Aetna have warned that many health care consumers could soon see premium increases of fifty percent or more. That's a bitter pill for middle class families to swallow; as it is, health care costs account for a large portion of many families' monthly expenses. Experts are also warning that premium rate increases of almost one hundred percent could disproportionately hit individuals, small businesses and the young and healthy. (Read more in the Washington Post.)

In Massachusetts, experts warn that new federal rules will make it more difficult for small businesses to get discounts on health insurance purchases, despite efforts here in Massachusetts to help those businesses afford plans for employees. (Read more in the Boston Globe.)

It looks more and more as if Obamacare's carrots and incentives were all up-front and that the bitter consequences of the legislation are just now starting to kick in, all to the distinct disadvantage of health care consumers. Even more troubling, it looks like it's less and less likely that individual states will be able to remedy the situation in the face of strong federal mandates.

Many Americans won't even know that these sharp increases in health insurance expenses are coming until it hits them in the wallet. Recent surveys show that 40% of people from ages 18 to 34 are not even aware that there is a penalty for not having health insurance. (Read more in Fox News.) But, when these rate hikes hit, they are likely to hit hard, making access to quality health care more difficult for millions of Americans, and placing untold additional strain on household budgets nationwide.

The bottom line is that, now, three years after the passage of landmark health insurance reform here in the United States, the health care problems faced by most Americans continue to get more complicated, and more expensive, by the day. And, that is the tragic consequence of Obamacare, which was marketed to the American people as a health care solution, and which now is turning out to be more of a symptom of what ails us than a cure.

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