ObamaCare’s Victims Need Relief Now
This op-ed originally appeared on The Wall Street Journal on June 27, 2017.
America faces an urgent crisis in its health-care system. Costs are skyrocketing and choices are disappearing on the individual and small-group markets. Many people now confront the real challenge of having no choice in their health coverage.
One of them is Doug Lake, an Iowa radiologist who came to the White House last week to share his story. His daughter, who suffers from a rare cardiac condition, is covered by an insurer that plans to pull out of ObamaCare’s exchange in their state next year. Only one insurer remains in their county, and that company has requested a 43% increase in premiums.
The situation is even worse elsewhere. As of this week, 49 counties across the country do not have a single insurer offering plans on the exchanges next year.
This year more than 1,000 counties had only one insurer in the ObamaCare market, meaning millions of Americans had no meaningful choice. Meanwhile, the insurers that did stay in the market increased premiums for their midlevel plans by an average of 25%. Premiums on the individual market are up about $3,000 since ObamaCare was implemented. Think about what else that money could buy!
It is too early to know how much premiums will rise next year, but reports so far indicate that double-digit increases again will be the norm.
These are not simply numbers on a page: They represent real people with real stories, facing real health-care and financial crises.
Dudley Bostic, a pharmacy owner in Tennessee, can no longer afford to provide health insurance for her employees because of ObamaCare’s mandates. Candace Fowler, a Missouri homemaker who was recently diagnosed with a serious neurological condition, lives in a county where there are slated to be no insurers selling ObamaCare plans next year. Tommie McClain, a student in Clinton, Mo., who suffers from chronic migraines, faces the possibility of zero choices in his county, too.
The good news is that Congress has the chance to help Doug, Dudley, Candace, Tommie and the millions of other Americans suffering under this law by undoing the damage done by ObamaCare and fulfilling the promises President Trump has made.
The bill recently introduced in the Senate would get rid of the individual mandate, which in 2015 alone caused 6.5 million Americans to pay $3 billion in penalties to the IRS because they did not want or could not afford a government-dictated health plan. It would directly repeal some of ObamaCare’s most costly regulations while giving states flexibility to waive others if they develop innovative ways to provide coverage and bring down costs.
The Senate’s plan also would repeal hundreds of billions of dollars in onerous taxes. It would put Medicaid on a sustainable spending path and give states a real chance to reform the program to make it work for the people who rely on it.
The Trump administration, recognizing the need for urgent action, began offering Americans relief from ObamaCare starting in February. The Department of Health and Human Services has reviewed thousands of pages of ObamaCare rules and taken more than a dozen distinct actions, with additional positive steps in the works.
But administrative action is constrained by the failed law Americans all live under. If Congress acts this summer, the Trump administration will have significantly expanded ability to offer relief, and the country will have taken a huge step toward truly patient-centered health care.
Under ObamaCare, insurers are either running for the exit doors or proposing huge premium increases. Americans instead deserve a market where companies clamor to offer competitive plans to as many customers as they can. That is what Congress has the chance to make possible, and it can’t come a day too soon.
Mr. Price is secretary of health and human services.
Appeared in the June 28, 2017, print edition.