In passing his historic tax overhaul at the end of 2017, President Donald Trump included rules that ripped the heart out of Obamacare by repealing the individual mandate, which fined individuals who didn’t purchase health insurance. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare” Trump said after the tax bill passed.
Healthcare is the number one issue that Democrats are campaigning on as the midterms approach, so it’s worth clarifying some myths about Trump and Obamacare. Despite fear-mongering from liberals, and Trump’s claim that he “essentially repealed” Obamacare, Trump only repealed a single (albeit major) component of Obamacare (the individual mandate). That was the least popular aspect of the law, and more popular components such as the Medicare expansion and the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26 are still in effect.
That being said, the alleged benefits of Obamacare have all been oversold.
Obamacare Didn’t Reduce Healthcare Costs
The debate over the effects of repealing Obamacare (in part or full) overlooks the fact that Obamacare failed to live up to its promise of reducing healthcare costs. “”I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year” Obama said out on the campaign trail in 2007.
Clearly that did not happen. The average family coverage plan cost $16,351 in 2014 (the year Obamacare fully took effect), and rose to $18,764 by 2017 (a year which the law was still in full effect despite Trump’s presidency).
Private Obamacare Insurance is Glorified Catastrophic Insurance
Those who receive insurance through ObamaCare exchanges are essentially covered with the equivalent of a catastrophic healthcare plan, as the deductibles render the insurance “insurance in name only” for most. The average “silver plan” has a $3,937 deductible, and “bronze plans” $5,873. Overall, the average deductible is roughly $4,000. Most purchase silver plans, which cover 70% of health expenses.
Most Were Insured Through Medicaid
Has Obamacare succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured? To give some context on the pre-Obamacare statistics, at the beginning of 2008, a Gallup poll found that 14.6% of Americans did not have health insurance coverage. The uninsured rate rose to an all-time high of 18% in 2013 after Obamacare was passed but before people were required to have insurance. That rate declined to 8.8% by 2017 (with 28.5 million uninsured), which was virtually unchanged from 2016.
It must be noted that all statistics are inflated, as illegal aliens are counted in population statistics (and thus drive up the uninsured rates). A Center for Immigration Studies study found that illegals accounted for roughly 1 in 7 people without insurance in 2006. If that figure holds, the adjusted uninsured rates would be 12.5% in 2008, 15.4% in 2013, and 7.5% in 2017.
Obamacare did indeed reduce the percentage of people uninsured, though nearly all of the newly insured were insured by parts of the law that Trump did not touch.
The Department of Health and Human Services released a report at the end of 2016 claiming that 20 million were newly insured as a result of Obamacare (leading to the inevitable untrue headlines that 20 million would lose insurance without Obamacare). Of that 20 million. 5.8 million are insured through the subsidized individual market (through Obamacare exchanges), 2.3 million from the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health plans until 26, and the remaining 11.9 million were insured through the Medicaid expansion.
Still, the “20 million” figure is an overstatement. Nearly five million of those now insured through Medicaid were already eligible for it before Obamacare, and some percentage of the 2.3 million who remained on their parent’s plans would’ve otherwise purchased their own private plans.
If Trump were to take action to shut down the Obamacare exchanges, that would simply be speeding up the inevitable, as nearly all exchanges have already failed. Only four Obamacare exchanges remain in 2018, after 19 have failed.
Surprisingly, insuring people through Medicare is cheaper than through Obama’s faux-private insurance. Figures from the Congressional Budget Office show they plan to spend an average of $6,300 on each individual who purchases subsidized health insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges in 2018. However, they’re set to spend “only” roughly $4,900 for each Medicaid recipient who enrolled. In other words, it would’ve been simpler and more cost-effective for Obama to have simply expanded an existing public healthcare program than implement Obamacare.
Trump’s Actions Can’t “Take Away” Anyone’s Healthcare
Despite any hysterical rhetoric you’ve seen, there is no grand scheme to “take away” anyone’s healthcare, and nothing Trump has done has come close to doing so.
You can only lose insurance through Trump’s individual mandate repeal voluntarily if you stop purchasing insurance in absence of the penalty. Interestingly enough there seems to be an ideological divide evident in those voluntarily ceasing to purchase insurance. Over the past two years the uninsured rate among Republicans rose from 7.9% to 13.9%, while it remained flat among Democrats at 9.1%.