By Victor Thorn —
This year, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, will be fully implemented. Though proponents tout its benefits, such as coverage for those with preexisting conditions, Obamacare has been devastating to middle-class workers and small businesses across the country.
During the third Democratic debate, held on December 18, 2015, ABC News moderator Martha Raddatz provided some shocking statistics for all Americans to mull. Since the ACA became law in 2010, those with private health insurance have seen costs rise 27%, deductibles increased by 67%, and prescription drug prices have shot through the roof.
To test the veracity of her statements, on December 23, 2015, AMERICAN FREE PRESS interviewed Lonnie Dockins, the sole owner of a small western Pennsylvania landscaping business.
When asked if he’s seen an increase in his health insurance costs, Dockins replied: “That’s easy to answer, and I can back it up with numbers. I have an excellent gold plan with maximum benefits, and for the upcoming year this policy will rise from $640 per month to $760 per month. Four years ago, right after Obamacare became law, I was paying $300 per month.”
Dockins continued: “I performed a spreadsheet on every expense for my business over the past four years. Healthcare went up like Mount Everest compared to every other cost. That means because of Obamacare and the impact it’s had on private health insurance costs, I’ve taken a $5,500 per year pay cut.”
When this reporter reminded Dockins that Obama promised a $2,500 annual decrease in health insurance costs for average Americans, he snapped: “As soon as Obamacare was passed, every person I know started seeing a sickening rise in their insurance costs. It’s an upside-down world. Money is being taken from people who work and given to those who don’t. Why are we penalizing workers to subsidize those who aren’t productive? Obama is making the opposite happen to what he should be doing.”
In terms of the near future, Dockins predicted: “Insurance companies intend to make quality plans such as mine—those with full benefits and no deductibles—so expensive that people will no longer be able to afford them. Likewise, employers will only offer their workers cheap, crappy policies that don’t cover anything. If someone happens to get really sick, they’re screwed.”
On January 5, AFP also contacted Jackson Billings, co-owner of a small manufacturing facility in northwest Pennsylvania.
Billings stated: “Because healthcare coverage has become so burdensome, our company no longer offers family insurance plans to our employees. The reason why is price.”
Confirming what Dockins previously said, Billings emphasized: “It’s rumored that in the next couple of years, small businesses like mine won’t even make healthcare benefits available. That means everyone’s cut loose and on their own. I’ve been with this company for 19 years, and ever since Obamacare kicked in, it’s been a nightmare in terms of health insurance.”
Dockins summed it up best: “People who work and pay for their own healthcare can’t afford to visit doctors anymore, yet those living in Section 8 housing, refugees, illegal aliens, and blacks on welfare can. I know this issue better than almost anyone because the money keeps being taken out of my pocket and given to people who don’t contribute to society. I guess that’s what Obama ultimately wants.”
IS AN IMPENDING DEATH SPIRAL IN OBAMACARE’S FUTURE?
On November 19, 2015, after losses of hundreds of millions of dollars on the program, Stephen Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, stated that his company may pull out of Obamacare entirely by 2017.
“We cannot sustain these losses,” Hemsley told analysts on a conference call. “We can’t really subsidize a marketplace that doesn’t appear at the moment to be sustaining itself.”
As the nation’s largest health insurer, this news caused panic among other Obamacare participants such as Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and Humana. Hemsley explained that since enrollment in Obamacare has been much weaker than anticipated, UnitedHealthcare has lost $500 million over the past two years.
“If one of the largest and presumably, by reputation and experience, the most sophisticated of the health plans out there can’t make money on the exchanges, then one has to question whether the exchange as an institution is a viable enterprise,” an analyst at Mizuho Securities said.
One of the primary factors for low enrollment is cost. Despite Obama’s rhetoric, according to a November 1, 2015 article by Richard Pollock, a reporter for the politically conservative news and opinion website The Daily Caller, “Obamacare premium costs will soar 20.3% on average in 2016 instead of the 7.5% increase claimed by federal officials.” In states such as Utah, Tennessee, and Illinois, rates are expected to jump by 30-40%.
This data was alluded to on October 27, 2015 by Dr. Omar Hamada, a former Tennessee Medical Association board member.
Hamada revealed: “I see no end in sight for increasing insurance costs as long as Obamacare is the law of the land. Since becoming law, Obamacare has forced costs to skyrocket every single year.”
Part of the problem stems from a practice that largely foiled Obama’s green energy program. Namely, due to rampant crony capitalism, millions of dollars were back-doored to Obama’s biggest political donors. In addition, on top of funds being unlawfully misdirected, favored executives with little experience in the healthcare field were paid obscene salaries.
As a result, a large number of co-ops—the backbone of Obamacare—have gone belly up.
When compounded with UnitedHealthcare’s potential decision to abandon Obamacare, all of these factors could lead to a death spiral that many critics predicted years ago.
On December 1, 2015, the digital news, news analysis and opinion publication The Fiscal Times’s Eric Pianin provided this analysis: “Obamacare enrollment projections for the coming year are substantially down to 10 million, the projected cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs are up, and nearly half of the insurance co-ops associated with the program are going out of business.”
If that’s not enough, Pianin predicted that more than 40% of facilities providing healthcare services will flee Obamacare. Obviously, that means fewer physician options for those in need of medical care.
Not surprisingly, these consequences most affect the elderly, especially those still in the workforce.
On December 22, 2015 AFP spoke with Patrick Post, vice president of membership at the Washington, D.C.-based National Small Business United, “the nation’s first small-business advocacy organization,” according to its website.
“Changes made within Obamacare’s laws are age-rated,” said Post. “Since most business owners are older, a changing rate structure now means that their personal insurance costs are substantially higher. This problem is significant because healthcare plans are becoming too expensive for senior business owners to afford.”
Post mentioned one other blemish on Obamacare: “Since employers are forced under federal law to provide healthcare if they have over 50 employees, our members say that this number has been a disincentive to hiring more workers. They won’t go over the 50 threshold because Obamacare is such a huge cost of doing business.”
IRS & OBAMACARE
During his first term in office, operatives within the Obama White House unleashed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials like Lois Lerner on tea party members and other conservative groups. Today, their sights are set on small businesses.
To understand this agenda, on December 22, 2015 AFP reached out to Jack Mozloom, media director for the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Mozloom offered this analysis: “One of this administration’s strategies was to slow walk Obamacare. They rolled it out in stages so as to delay the amount of burdensome provisions until after the 2014 midterm elections. That way, people wouldn’t so easily notice the terrible effects it’s had on dampening small businesses.”
Mozloom then exposed a little-known move that could cripple many small businesses.
“In July 2015, Obamacare specified what types of healthcare plans a business must offer,” he said. “Here’s the catch. Let’s say an employer can’t afford buying group insurance. Instead, he reimburses each worker $2,000 to buy their own private insurance. Such a move is now illegal according to rules imposed by the IRS on July 1, 2015.”
Providing critical details, Mozloom added: “The penalty for violating this regulation is much higher than the fine for not providing insurance. In fact, the IRS fine on businesses is $100 per day per worker. That equals approximately $25,000 per employee. It’s a punishment imposed on businesses for doing exactly what Obamacare proponents said they wanted employers to do, which was to insure workers. I can’t think of anything more preposterous.”
When this reporter compared this regulation to economic blackmail, Mozloom agreed, stating: “Obama and the IRS won’t let small businesses find any way around their system. It’s onerous and crazy, particularly since many small business owners aren’t even aware of the ramifications.”
Mozloom clarified another issue that is complicating matters. “An extraordinary amount of time and resources are being wasted on deciphering the ins and outs of Obamacare,” he said. “Small businesses must now hire private accountants to figure it out. They’re being forced to squander uncounted hours to be compliant, which of course piles on top of the extra costs already associated with this law.”
Pointing a finger of blame, Mozloom declared: “The Obama administration pretends to like small businesses more than large corporations, but that’s a lie. Many fees and taxes aren’t assessed on huge companies like Apple, only small businesses. Worst of all, healthcare choices have actually gone down, not up, for small businesses. Basic policies are now gone. They’re no longer a legal option. So, employers must shell out more money on so-called ‘Cadillac plans.’ Even Hillary Clinton admitted its failures. During a recent public appearance, she conceded that one of the effects of Obamacare was to not encourage employment. Businesses are shedding full-time workers because Obamacare punishes them for having these assets.”
In conclusion, Mozloom warned: “None of the promises concerning Obamacare will materialize in 2016. Rather, more of its costs and disadvantages will become clear this year. Most of the losers for Obamcare will be small business owners because of higher costs and premiums, narrower networks, collapsing insurers, and no improvement to the quality of American healthcare. Really, though, who would have thought the results would be any different except for academic theorists like Jonathan Gruber and Cass Sunstein?”
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 50 books.