Still Looking for “Affordable” in the Affordable Care Act
By Sen. John Thune
While President Obama is just a few short months away from leaving office, there are a few items he won’t be able to leave behind – like the legacy of his health care law. The president’s Democratic allies in Washington would still like to view this bill as President Obama’s top legislative achievement, but the truth is, this law has become a disaster. Thanks to Obamacare, South Dakotans have been saddled with higher premiums and fewer choices, and they’re still struggling to understand what happened to the president’s bold promise that Obamacare would be the cure-all for what ailed our nation’s health care system.
South Dakotans have been feeling the Obamacare pain since the law was first implemented, and for many, 2017 offers no reprieve. Let’s say for example that an Obamacare silver plan for a non-smoking, 40-year-old male in South Dakota cost $4,000 in 2016. If that same person signs up for that same plan in 2017, he would have to pony up an additional $1,400 next year alone. And that’s just for his premiums. He may also be facing thousands of dollars in deductibles on top of that. I don’t know many South Dakotans who can afford a 36 percent increase in health care premiums for themselves, let alone a large increase for their entire family. The cost of health care has gotten so bad that I’ve heard from multiple South Dakotans whose health care payments were more than their mortgage payments.
The increasingly high cost of care under Obamacare has become the law’s hallmark, but unfortunately the law’s problems don’t end there. Countless Americans this year are once again discovering the hollowness of the president’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise. Health insurance companies are dropping out of the exchanges in droves, which means countless consumers around the country are facing the loss of their health plan. And they may have very few options for replacing it.
Remember when the president promised that choosing a health insurance plan would be like buying a TV on Amazon? Well, for many people nowadays, going on healthcare.gov is like choosing a TV on Amazon – if Amazon only offered one or two TVs. According to a report released in August, one-third of the country – one-third – may have just one insurer to pick from on the exchanges for next year.
Republicans, myself included, sounded the alarm for our Democrat colleagues in 2009 and 2010 about what we saw as the future of Obamacare. But this isn’t a matter of “I told you so” – far from it. This is a matter of acknowledging the reality of where we are, so that we can move forward. If we’re going to move toward a future with the high-quality, affordable health care that South Dakotans deserve, we’re going to have to start over, and Republicans are ready to go, with a lot of ideas to bring to the table. My hope is that Democrats and the next president will join us.