Let Freedom Ring Must Reads

Obamacare: The Real Pain Starts This Year
By David Catron

Obamacare was designed such that its most harmful provisions would not be implemented until after the President had been returned to office for a second term and his Democrat accomplices had been reelected to their congressional seats. Fortunately for the nation, the latter part of that strategy was a spectacular failure. Nonetheless, it did provide the public with a temporary reprieve from the health care law’s most painful exactions. That brief respite is now at an end. This year, you will begin to experience the realities of “reform” first hand and you are not going to like how it feels.

In fact, you are probably already feeling the first twinges without recognizing that their source is Obamacare. If you are among the 150 million Americans who get health insurance through their employers, for example, chances are that the coverage your company offered for 2015 has much higher premiums than did last year’s plan. The President and his toad eaters in the legacy media will do their best to convince you that these increases are caused by insurance company avarice, but this is merely another lie they are peddling in the hope that they can save Obama’s “signature domestic achievement.”

The actual cause was the looming employer mandate and other Obamacare regulations that took effect January 1. The mandate and accompanying red tape dramatically increase the cost of employee health insurance for companies with 100 or more full-time-equivalent workers. It requires all such firms to offer “minimum essential” coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees or pay huge fines. These PPACA-mandated benefits are expensive, and very few small-to-medium sized employers can unilaterally absorb the costs of such “essential” coverage. So you get to share the pain.

But your premiums are just the start. The real pain will come when you need medical services. Your new plan probably has a far higher deductible and co-pay requirement than your old one. Consequently, when you see a doctor or have a test performed, you’ll have to pay the entire cost. This need to pay for such services out-of-pocket despite being insured, according to USA Today, is already causing people to forego care: “A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that four in 10 working-age adults skipped some kind of care because of the cost, and other surveys have found much the same.”

It gets worse. Even if you’re willing and able to dig into your wallet to pay for an office visit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can see a doctor in a timely fashion. The primary care physician on whom you and most Americans have long relied for basic medical care is an endangered species. As the AP reports, “A survey this year by The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, and 44 percent said they planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire… or close their practice to new patients.”

Is it fair to blame Obamacare for the extinction of the PCP? Yes. PPACA creates incentives for doctors to leave the system. It was, for example, used to disguise an outrageous bait-and-switch that duped doctors into accepting millions of new patients now “covered” by Medicaid. However, as the New York Times reported last week, “The Affordable Care Act provided a big increase in Medicaid payments for primary care in 2013 and 2014. But the increase expires on [January 1].” These physicians, according to the Times, “will see their fees for primary care cut by 43 percent, on average.”

And, adding insult to injury, the Obama administration says that these PCPs have “no legal right to challenge the adequacy of payments they received from Medicaid.” They were suckered into accepting Medicaid patients and are now being told they must accept payment rates that don’t even cover their overhead costs. After such a betrayal by the administration that promised to reform the health care system while busily herding millions of patients into a Potemkin coverage program like Medicaid, is it really any wonder nearly half of the nation’s primary care doctors are eyeing the exit?

If you can’t get a timely appointment with a PCP because so many are swamped by new patients “covered” by Medicaid, where do you go for care? The ER? Well, no. That option is now even less palatable than it was in the bad old days before the advent of Obamacare. The New York Post reports, “The Colorado Hospital Association found that the average number of ER visits in states that expanded Medicaid increased by 5.6 percent, when the second quarter of this year was compared with the same period in 2013.” This dwarfed such increases in states that declined to expand Medicaid.

“Even if you’re willing and able to dig into your wallet to pay for an office visit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can see a doctor in a timely fashion. The primary care physician on whom you and most Americans have long relied for basic medical care is an endangered species.”

However, as with PCPs, you may soon lose your access to a nearby ER even if you’re willing to endure long wait times and overcrowding. Why? Obamacare is also destroying the community hospital system. Becker’s Hospital Review reported in September that 20 hospitals had gone under during the first eight months of 2014. That’s more than 2 per month, about twice the 2013 closure rate. How is PPACA wreaking such havoc? It is adding expensive regulatory burdens to hospitals while reducing payments for patients covered by government programs like Medicare and, of course, Medicaid.

Welcome to the brave new world of U.S. health care as reformed by the President and congressional Democrats. It is precisely the opposite of what most Americans wanted from reform. Eight months before Obamacare passed, Gallup conducted a survey in which a majority of the public unequivocally stated that controlling costs was its highest priority. Obamacare is actually increasing costs for both patients and providers, while reducing access for the former. And this is just the beginning. The pain will continue to increase until this malignant tumor is cut out of our health care system.

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