February 4 2014
The Shriver Report’s latest edition, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” is a compilation of essays by authors from Hillary Clinton to LeBron James that discuss the hardships of many Americans – mainly women – on the brink of poverty. The Report is also a campaign for public policy changes, such as universal daycare and mandated maternity benefits, in an effort to help low-income mothers.
None of that comes as any surprise: It’s the standard laundry list in every “progressive” agenda for women. What’s more interesting than what’s in the Report is what is left out: There’s hardly any mention of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare. Besides advocating for more birth control as a solution for the breakdown of the family, the Report doesn’t address health policy. The only place the Affordable Care Act is discussed is in blog articles on the Shriver Report’s slick Web site.
Clearly, this Report is a part of the Left’s recent attempt to highlight income inequality as a hard pivot from health care policy, where they are losing battles – both logistically and politically.
Obamacare has put Democrats in a difficult position, especially in an election year, because most American families – including many “on the brink” of poverty – are realizing that the health reform law actually makes their lives harder. In a recent Fox News poll, 62 percent of respondents answered that the law would make their insurance more expensive, and a majority said the quality of their health care would stay the same (36 percent) or get worse (39 percent).
In keeping with the Left’s talking points, Shriver Report bloggers focus on the number (“millions”) of American women who will purportedly gain coverage because of Obamacare. Naturally, they avoid any discussion of the reliability of that insurance, the size of doctor networks available, or the cost.
What’s really happening to families on the brink under Obamacare? Two pieces of Obamacare were intended to help them: the Medicaid expansion and subsidies in the state-based exchanges.
The Medicaid expansion, which widens eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, will mean that (according to Congressional Budget Office estimates) about 11 million more Americans will have insurance through Medicaid by 2022.
But don’t assume that means that health care costs will go down or that people will have access to more quality care. In fact, instead of decreasing emergency room crowding, an MIT study of Oregon’s expansion shows that new Medicaid enrollees used the ER 40 percent more. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that 30 percent of primary care physicians aren’t taking any new Medicaid patients. If you can’t get primary care, you may end up in an emergency department, seeking non-urgent care in an inefficient and less healthy way.
And what about the subsidies in the health care exchanges that were supposed to make insurance more affordable? Sadly, because other requirements and regulations in Obamacare work to drive premiums up, many lower-middle-income families are seeing a premium increase that outpaces their new subsidy. For example, what good is it if Uncle Sam offers me a subsidy each month of $12, but my premium has increased by $100 monthly? Experts have calculated that while federal assistance extends up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, subsidies only catch up with premium increases at 225 percent of the federal poverty line. This means that many families who are eligible for subsidies will still be worse off.
Aside from the Medicaid expansion and the subsidized exchanges, Obamacare has had another effect on low-income workers: The employer requirements in the law have encouraged companies to reduce the number of hours that part-time employees can work. The last thing these workers need is to have their hours (and therefore their pay) reduced because their employers are trying to comply with arbitrary thresholds in the law’s many new regulations.
When we consider how Obamacare is failing many families “on the brink,” it’s no surprise that the politically liberal authors of the Shriver Report chose to ignore it. Yet the American people shouldn’t ignore how the promise of “big government” often disappoints and can backfire on those most in need.