Health Held At Ransom: Don’t Blame Obamacare, Blame Capitalism
Healthcare companies are functioning in the way that capitalism has enabled them to.
Health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces (exchanges) are expected to increase drastically in 2017 due to substantial losses experienced by insurers within the flux of this market and the phasing out of the ACA’s reinsurance program (Kaiser Family foundation). They are going up an average of 25 percent, that’s a substantial increase from last year’s premium hike of 7.5 percent.
This has been expected. It’s a major market correction that people who study these things (like KFF and HHS) knew was coming. Premiums on marketplaces have actually been lower than expected in the first three years of the exchanges than what was initially predicted. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that health insurance companies were doing consumers any favors.
While the ACA resolved the issue of access and started to work on the quality aspects of our (F****** up) health system, it didn’t address cost. This policy failure, coupled with over the last few months of major national insurers (United Healthcare, Aetna) pulling out of the marketplace in several states, is the cause of the premium hikes. They pulled out due to losing money on plans sold through the marketplace because at-risk populations who actually need insurance finally had access, and guess what, ACTUALLY used it.
Regulators should and could be doing a better job of limiting these rate increases. Even though health insurance companies may not be making their money on the exchanges, United Health Care was still up 28 percent from last year in revenue for their second quarter results in 2016 at a whopping $46.5 Billion. Aetna has experienced a more humble growth of revenue at 5 percent and stated to investors that while they were pleased with their overall results, they would still be pulling out of all of their 2017 public exchange expansion plans faster than a high schooler without condom…
So, someway somehow, these companies are still making money. Their employer plans (whose prices have been going up at a much more rapid/consistent rate than individual plans), pension plans, and life insurance plans have been their bread and butter. Now that we have established that ‘they be eatin’, what’s the real reason for the financial burden to be passed onto vulnerable American consumers that are purchasing health insurance on the exchanges?
Simple, because they can. Now, we can’t blame the big bad health insurance companies entirely, asking them to not raise prices is like asking a wolf to not go after the three little pigs. They simply can’t help it. It’s in their nature.
This type of unbalanced capitalism has left our healthcare system broken in several ways. So don’t blame Obamacare just because the companies are functioning in the way that capitalism has enabled them to. However, you CAN blame Obamacare for not implementing stronger price oversight and leaving it up to localities and states to ‘negotiate’ (and I use that term loosely) pricing with the companies directly.
As long as healthcare remains in the private sector, our health is at risk of being held ransom. Like many Americans, I look forward to the day where we will implement a single-payer healthcare system, because after all, what incentive do any of these companies have to subsidize their pricing on the exchanges?