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January 20th, 2017

Insight

The Single Issue on Which You Should Cast Your Vote --- Obamacare

Bruce Bialosky

By Bruce Bialosky

Published Oct. 31, 2016

We are almost there, folks! November 8th will end this miserable election cycle and determine our fate for the next four years. If you have not already voted and are still thinking about which presidential candidate or party to support, you should focus like a laser on the one issue of the many important ones in this election: Obamacare.

Unfortunately, as this election focused more on personal characteristics and irrelevant comments, the principal legislation of the past eight years has been largely ignored as an election issue. While the plan continues to alter the healthcare landscape in a major way and premiums soar, we have barely confronted the future of our healthcare as a country, but there is still time for you to focus your vote on it.

You need not be reminded that serious Democratic politicians have called the plan into question. Everyone saw the video of former President Bill Clinton calling it "the craziest thing in the world." He stated before that "where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half."

But he was not the only Democrat to take issue with Obamacare. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stated Obamacare is "no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people." Even Obama went after his namesake legislation. He compared the healthcare plan to the Samsung Note 7. "Just because it catches on fire does not mean you should desert smartphones." Translation: It is a disaster, but trust the government to make it better.

And that is a reasonable position, if you are Hillary Clinton. She wants to fix the program. It is not just that she wants to fix it, but how she wants to fix it. She wants to take our healthcare system to the next step - what has bucolically been named the "public option." That means if your state has only one or two health insurance options, the government will step in and offer another. The public option will lowball the premiums and co-pays and soon drive private insurance out of your state. Your only option will soon be government insurance. Clinton has also suggested we could buy into Medicare (a broke system) which has not been explained. Either way, the course Clinton and the Democrats offer is more government control for you and me (not for them).

Then there are the major effects that this act is setting in that may never be reversible. There is the consolidation as hospitals buy up other hospitals and hospitals buy up medical practices. We are losing private practice physicians as they join up with hospitals to eradicate the immense risk generated by Obamacare and the mountains of paperwork. Fifty-seven percent of doctors ran their own practices in 2000; that figure is down to 33% as of 2015.

You cannot even reach a doctor anymore. I had to call a specialist for a problem I was having with my knee. He was independent and is now part of Cedars-Sinai, a major hospital operation in Los Angeles. It took me 20 minutes just to make an appointment. It then took me 18 minutes to cancel the appointment when my knee improved. The end is near for anyone getting personalized care in America. Obamacare is destined to bring us all down to the lowest common denominator.

Then there is the cost. The plan my wife and I have increased over 50% in cost the last few years. To keep the premiums from soaring we increased our deductible from the very high $6,000 total to $6,000 for each of us. The increase planned for next year adds another 20%.

As you know it has been announced that the average premium increase for Obamacare across 39 states is 25%. But that is a highly misleading figure. If you read the report offered by HHS, it is a puff piece for Obamacare. If this was an offering memorandum for an investment the promoters would be jailed.

After telling people all the ways they can possibly save under the new numbers for 2017, they finally get to the chart on page 34 that shows the state-by-state breakdown of increases. The numbers in this chart and all the others are based on a 27-year-old policyholder. The problem is there are few 27-year-old policyholders. Most everyone agrees that is why the plans are failing. In fact, another report stated that only a third of the policyholders were in the age bracket 0-34 years old.

The question is what are the average increases for people actually in the plan - like 54-year-olds. They don't tell us that because you can bet the house the average is higher. When Trump said the numbers are ginned, I am not sure he knew how badly they are ginned.

When I spoke to the Office of Health Policy (HHS) I asked two simple questions. First, how did they decide to use a 27-year-old as a policyholder? Second, what was the average cost increase for a 54-year-old? They refused to answer either question.

HHS argues that the vast majority of people on the healthcare exchanges will get subsidies that will limit their out-of-pocket expenses. They forget to talk about two things. First, the exploding deductibles that people are having to pay. Second, the exploding federal deficit from underwriting the higher subsidies.

The report finishes its opening summary with the statement, "This brief shows that the Affordable Care Act is continuing to promote affordability and choice in the Marketplace for plan year 2017." Everyone knows that insurance companies have been pulling out of states left and right. The report later makes clear 20% of people in the plans will have only one healthcare company to choose from. That means zero competition. Where is the choice?

Then there is Obama's distorted manipulation about 20 million people covered. I have written before this entire matter could have been handled by expanding Medicaid. There are 11 million more people on that, but the other 9 million that Obama claims are people who just normally got insurance from employers during the period. The percentage of people under 65 who have private health insurance is still lower in 2015 (65.8%) than it was in 2007 (66.8%). That means any real increase in people with coverage is being subsidized by the government.

And, of course, I will say for the hundredth time, getting health insurance does not mean getting healthcare. There are no more doctors, nurses or hospitals to provide services. In fact, a slew of experienced doctors retired rather than deal with this mess. In fact, only about 25% of doctors will accept Medicaid patients.

If you believe that the new system is working and can be improved, you should vote for Hillary Clinton. If you believe the system is dysfunctional and is only going to get worse you should vote for Donald Trump.

To quote a famous American, "Affordable, Affordable, Affordable, Affordable, Affordable. Affordable."

Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former Presidential appointee.

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