Right-wing media are hyping a survey that found the number of American adults without health insurance has increased “by some 2 million this year” and claiming that it shows the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in a “death spiral.” But these reports fail to note that insurers have said uncertainty around the future of Obamacare -- caused by President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress -- has spurred premium increases and dwindling options in markets and that Republicans have been working for years to sabotage the law.
Survey finds Obamacare gains start to erode due to “rising premiums and dwindling choices”
AP: ACA coverage gains “are starting to erode” due to “rising premiums and dwindling choices in the insurance markets.” A new survey has found that the number of American adults “without health insurance has grown by some 2 million this year,” The Associated Press (AP) reported on July 10. According to the AP report, the losses “may be a reflection of rising premiums and dwindling choices in the insurance markets” which were created under then-President Barack Obama. Additionally, the article stated, “Insurers say Trump administration actions are contributing to double-digit premium increases for next year.” From the July 10 article:
As Congress returns to continue a debate over Republican proposals to roll back much of the Affordable Care Act, there's some sign that coverage gains from the law are starting to erode.
The number of U.S. adults without health insurance has grown by some 2 million this year, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, published Monday, The survey that the uninsured rate among U.S. adults was 11.7 percent in the second three months of this year, compared with a record low of 10.9 percent at the end of last year. Though small, the change was statistically significant, survey analysts noted.
The losses were concentrated among younger adults and people buying their own health insurance policies, the survey found.
That may be a reflection of rising premiums and dwindling choices in the insurance markets created under Obama.
Also, President Donald Trump has branded his predecessor's leading domestic achievement a “disaster” while pursuing its repeal. Insurers say Trump administration actions are contributing to double-digit premium increases for next year. [The Associated Press, 7/10/17]
Right-wing media use survey to criticize ACA
Right-wing media outlets hyped the survey’s findings to claim the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in the midst of a “death spiral.” An article on Laura’ Ingraham’s site LifeZette claimed that the survey showed “a further collapse” of the ACA. Townhall’s Katie Pavlich slammed the law, writing, “When Obamacare was sold on a pile of lies back in 2010, President Obama promised the American people his signature piece of legislation would lead to more health insurance coverage, not less.”
Insurers admitted they are raising premiums and pulling out of exchanges because of Republicans, who have threatened to hold the market hostage
Insurers blame Trump and congressional Republicans for the uncertainty around health care and their decisions to leave marketplaces and increase rates. Insurance executives have bluntly stated that they are leaving marketplaces and increasing premiums because of Trump and uncertainty around health care. One executive told Vox that he “filed a 22.9 percent Obamacare rate increase in 2018” in North Carolina because, as Vox explained, “he doesn’t think the Trump administration will come through” on payments to insurers; Trump has threatened to withhold payments to “press Democrats on [the] health bill,” according to The Wall Street Journal. CNBC also reported that the insurance commissioner of Washington state announced that two insurers would be leaving the state because “the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress have eroded confidence in the nation's insurance markets by pushing for a repeal of Obamacare and refusing to guarantee billions of dollars in reimbursements expected by health plans.” [Vox, 5/30/17; Los Angeles Times, 5/22/17; The Wall Street Journal, 4/12/17; CNBC, 6/8/17]
Republicans have worked to sabotage the ACA for years
NY Times: Republican campaign against risk corridor provisions was “legislative sabotage.” In 2015, The New York Times called a successful effort led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to limit funding to the “so-called risk corridors” of the ACA, which protected “insurance companies against financial losses,” “quiet legislative sabotage.” Eliminating these payments, according to a Los Angeles Times columnist who quoted experts, reduced competition in some markets and led to higher premiums. [The New York Times, 12/9/15; The Los Angeles Times, 12/10/15]
Wash. Post: Republicans promised to block any efforts to build a federal exchange and urged states to “refuse to build their own insurance marketplaces.” In 2013, The Washington Post reported that while Republicans pledged to “block any funding attempts” for a federal exchange, they encouraged states to “refuse to build their own online insurance marketplaces.” From the November 2, 2013, article:
Although the statute provided plenty of money to help states build their own insurance exchanges, it included no money for the development of a federal exchange — and Republicans would block any funding attempts. According to one former administration official, [then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen] Sebelius simply could not scrounge together enough money to keep a group of people developing the exchanges working directly under her.
A larger number of states than expected were signaling that, under Republican pressure, they would refuse to build their own online insurance marketplaces and would rely on the federal one. The more states in the federal exchange, the more complex the task of building it. Yet, according to several former officials, White House staff would not let this fact be included in the specifications. Their concern, one former official said, was that Republicans would seize on it as evidence of a feared federal takeover of the health-care system. [The Washington Post, 11/2/13]
Republicans “declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid,” leaving millions without insurance. The New York Times reported in 2013 that many states “largely controlled by Republicans … declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid.” HuffPost reported that these states “not only will deny health coverage to poor residents and lose access to a huge influx of federal dollars, they also will see increased spending on uninsured people’s unpaid medical bills.” [The New York Times, 10/2/13; HuffPost, 6/3/13]
Politico: “Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds” for ACA implementation. In 2013, Politico noted that after “most Republican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges ... congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds” needed for the federal government to “take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving [those] states.” Republicans’ stonewalling left “the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs.” [Politico, 11/1/13]