Insurance Premiums at a Premium

What’s a nation to do? We will always need health care and well care.

When we are able to define the problems and issues we are able to find solutions to those problems and resolve those issues.

Why can’t the issues with Health Care be resolved (if they are no older than the ACA)?

  • The ACA has been blamed for rising premiums and deductibles
  • The ACA has been held responsible for failures in the insurance industry
  • The ACA has been blamed for expanding Medicaid for the poor & disabled
  • The ACA has been blamed for exploding profits in the insurance industry
  • The ACA has insured health care to 20 million, otherwise unable to get it

Why are premiums and deductibles rising? Because that’s what they do. They were rising before the ACA was passed, but at least, the ACA put some limits on runaway profits, right? There are failed businesses in every industry, and insurance is no exception, right? The poor and disabled need health care, should they receive it? Businesses have to turn a profit to continue in business, but how much profit does it take to be considered obscene? If there are 20 million more people getting health care now than there were before the ACA, how will they react when they are forced off of Medicaid, when the rug is once again pulled out from under their feet?

Are our legislators pondering any of these questions? Do they even see the blue collar and middle class? It has been 7 years since the ACA was signed into law and we are still talking about it, suffering from it, and failing to repair it.

Since the ACA was signed into law in 2010, through a Democratic majority, the opposition party has done just that; oppose. The harsh rhetoric, on both sides of the aisle, which has dominated the political conversation for the last 7 years, has not been constructive or conducive to bi-partisanship.

Did the Democrats anticipate how the Republican outrage over the Obama election and the resultant obstructionism would last as long as his presidency? How did they deal with the way the Republicans dug their heels in after Obama’s re-election, and shut down the whole government (Ted Cruz-November 2013) for the sake of another failed attempt to repeal the ACA without a replacement?

Did the Republicans ever consider that there might be a future wherein they would be held responsible by their constituents for refusing to allow legislation to pass with their blatant obstruction? Did they expect the same type of obstruction to be used against them by their “friends across the aisle” when they took the majority? Are they surprised at the difficulty they are still experiencing under their new Republican president.

Incessant attempts to repeal without an adequate replacement have served to broadcast the message that our legislators are more concerned with posturing in front of their colleagues and contributors than serving the best interests of their constituents.

Let’s look at the issues in bullet points above.

(1) The insurance providers, not the ACA law, have raised premiums and deductibles. Statistics show that the increase in premiums and deductibles has slowed under the ACA as compared to pre-ACA rates of growth. The ACA has placed limitations on the percentage of premiums that can become profits in some cases.

(2) Some failures in the insurance industry have been blamed on the ACA. The insurance lobby had plenty to say while the ACA was being crafted. It was the insurance lobby that insisted on the ACA forcing mandatory participation, because without it, they said they wouldn’t be able to cover all pre-existing conditions. The mandated individual participation was supposed to be enough to cover pre-existing conditions without soaring premiums, but that isn’t exactly how it worked out, now is it?

(3) The Medicaid expansion that was part of the ACA was optional to the individual states. I happen to live in a state whose governor rejected the Medicaid expansion option, preventing the disabled and poor in my home state from being able to avail themselves of health care, medical care, dental care or well care.

(4) The profits reported by the insurance industry since the ACA became law have been embarrassingly YUGE. If the profits are so high, why the consistent increase in premiums? The interesting nugget below comes from an article published in March 2016 on the healthinsurance.org blog

While the Dow Jones average has increased an impressive 253 percent since March 5, 2009, Humana’s share price is up a truly remarkable 1010 percent. No, that’s not a typo. Cigna’s share price has done even better. It’s up 1113 percent. That’s more than four times better than the Dow. The other big companies aren’t far behind. Anthem is up 469 percent. Aetna is up 628 percent. And UnitedHealth Group is up 814 percent. But it’s WellCare that takes the prize. Its stock price is up an astounding 1,410 percent. Thanks entirely to its federal and state government customers.

Source: https://www.healthinsurance.org/blog/2016/03/01/no-obamacare-isnt-killing-the-insurance-industry/

 

(5) The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid has allowed about 20 million people who are under-age, disabled, or otherwise unable to purchase coverage, to be able to seek medical care, surgical care, and dental care that they would have had to do without, if not for the ACA. Some people talk about that like it’s a bad thing.

So, what are our legislators going to do next? The Republicans are still hoping to push through their bill, which at last look retracts Medicaid availability for many over time. The Democrats feel justified in obstructing anything the Republicans put forth without bi-partisan input and debate, because the Republicans taught them how to use obstructionism during the Obama administration.

On July 10, 2017, during the 7AM hour of CNN’s New Day, Chris Cuomo interviewed Rep. Mo Brooks (R) Alabama, who serves on the Armed Services & Foreign Affairs committees, concerning the Senate bill Mitch McConnell is pushing.

Cuomo asked Brooks if the new Republican bill being reworked this week were to get a CBO score showing that the proposed ‘tax savings’ would be the cause of millions being pushed off of Medicaid over the next 5-7 years, would that be enough to kill the bill, and Brooks responded that it would for some Senators but not for others, because “we” have to keep in mind our ability to pay for things. He acknowledged that there are a lot of families out there which would be self sufficient were it not for high insurance premiums and commented that he’d love to deliver perfect health care to every American, but we just don’t have the money. To that Cuomo retorted that his (Brooks) policy argument conflicted with the reality of where this ‘tax savings’ would be going, to the very wealthy. Cuomo further questioned, if the congressman was so concerned about not being able to pay for Medicaid for the millions who can’t afford insurance, why are the tax breaks going to the wealthy. Brooks countered that the people who have great wealth are the ones who create the jobs that employ us all.

So what does that mean? Is he suggesting that the “have money” people are the ones insisting on depriving the poor and disabled of Medicaid so they can get a tax break? Is he suggesting that if you are able bodied or middle class that you can be sure to land an adequate job (that is yet to be) created by those who will receive the ‘tax savings’ from the restructuring of heath care? Are you holding your breath while hunting for these jobs?

Brooks claimed that health care and tax savings are all inner-related and are a difficult balance to achieve. He said in a free enterprise economy, it’s that wealth that creates the businesses that create the jobs for our blue collar and middle class workforce. He didn’t mention any of the jobs that have been lost to out-sourcing from this country over the last 40 years. He didn’t mention anything about the other tax breaks/loopholes that have been granted to the top 1% over the last 20 years. (Surely 20 years is enough time for the “have money” people to create jobs.) Where are the jobs? Oh yes, I remember where they went.

Definition: Job outsourcing is when U.S. companies hire foreign workers instead of Americans. In 2013, U.S. overseas affiliates employed 14 million workers. The four industries most affected are technology, call centers, human resources and manufacturing. (Source: “Activities of U.S. Multinational Enterprises in 2013,” Bureau of Economic Analysis. https://www.thebalance.com/how-outsourcing-jobs-affects-the-u-s-economy-3306279)

A difficult balance to achieve, huh?

I might have lent more credence to Rep. Brooks’ position except that to close the segment with Cuomo, Brooks threw shade at McConnell’s Senate, saying that he didn’t understand the hold up on the legislation. (This from a Tea Party Republican) Brooks claimed that the Senate could have been working on their own bill for 3 months while they were waiting for the House to pass their bill. He berated the Senate for waiting 3 months to start working on a replacement bill, even though the House has been trying to repeal the ACA for 7 years, but has no better replacement except to push those newly covered off of coverage while granting tax savings to the 1%. He slammed the Senate for the impasse they face with the Democrats, even though the House bill passed 217-213, without a single Democratic vote.

What will it take to break this deadlock? Why is every issue divided into Democratic/Republican rhetoric? This nation is more than just Democrat or Republican. It will take conversation, debate, and a fair amount of concern for the national population to call the attention of our legislators back to the people they were sent to Washington, DC to represent. I remember a time in history when American people felt like they were being taxed but not represented. There was a Tea Party then too.