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August 29 2016

ObamaCare Insurer Dropouts Spawning Monopolies

Patrice L. Onwuka

President Obama promised that by manipulating the private healthcare market he could deliver choice and competition to customers that would lower prices and the cost of healthcare – yet another broken promise 3 years after his legacy healthcare law rolled out.

The recent pullouts of Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealth are leaving wide swaths of Americans with ObamaCare without a choice OF which health insurers to take or plans to pursue. According to the nonpartisan health research nonprofit, the Kaiser Family Foundation, for 31 percent of counties there could be just one option for coverage in 2017 – a significant increase from last year when just 7 percent had only one option. For another 31 percent, there may only be two (up from 29 percent in 2016). That’s will leave a lot of people with no choice and in essence create a monopoly in the ObamaCare industry.

One county in Arizona is even at risk of having no insurers at all. States including Alaska, Missouri, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee are likely to have just one insurer. Rural areas seem to be the hardest hit according to the Wall Street Journal:

Most of the likely one-insurer counties are predominantly rural, according to the Kaiser analysis, which updates one it did in May. But several urban areas, such as Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, also face a lack of competition. The analysis suggests that about 19% of current exchange enrollees may have just one option next year; another 19% would have two.

“It’s terribly concerning,” said Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee’s commissioner of insurance. In most of her state, there will likely be just one exchange insurer next year, after the withdrawal of UnitedHealth; consumers throughout the state had at least two options in 2016

The Kaiser analysis is the most comprehensive look yet at competition in next year’s exchanges. But the number of counties with limited competition is likely to change between now and late September, when insurers have to lock in their plans.

The question is what will happen between now and open enrollment. As we’ve reported, Aetna promised to withdraw from 11 of the 14 states it operates in. Other insurers may choose to pick up the slack, which the Administration is crossing its fingers hoping for, or they may drop their coverage as well.

Either way, three years after its rollout, ObamaCare is hobbling, severely weakened by its own internal failings.

Back in 2009, when selling his answer to unaffordable healthcare, President Obama promised a dream:

“This exchange will allow you to one-stop shop for a health-care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose a plan that’s best for you and your family,” Obama said in a speech in 2009. “You will have your choice of a number of plans that offer a few different packages, but every plan would offer an affordable, basic package.”

At this point 24 million people were supposed to be on ObamaCare according to the Congressional Budget Office (early in 2013). Yet, today about 11 million people are on ObamaCare. In part because Americans have chosen the “stick” of a one-time tax fine over monthly premiums, high deductibles and unaffordable out-of-pocket costs.

And now President Obama says, just scrap this and create a public option:

“Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited,” he wrote in an essay published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Americans, especially young and healthy Americans, still know a bad deal when they see it – three years later. By sitting out ObamaCare, they have undercut the program and not even a dose of tax fees has been enough to overcome the costs for someone to take it.

Now, we see healthcare monopolies potentially forming because of government trying to tamper with an industry that was broken but functioning. If you look for the genesis of monopolies, commonly we find government: regulation, favoritism, or cronyism.

Instead of rebuilding healthcare to become like the handy Terminator, they left us with the horrors of Frankenstein.

 

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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