So Much for the Healthcare Savings from ACA

I never attended a town-hall meeting when the Affordable Care Act was making its way through the legislative process, nor turned red in the face screaming at my district’s House representative over death panels. But I did drink a large cup of skepticism over how much control over healthcare costs the ACA would render.

I wonder no more. In fact, it looks like we’re going to take a big step backwards in healthcare cost control.

Over at the Christian Science Monitor this morning, the Associated Press reports:

“Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It’s a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.”

Yep, healthcare costs will be going up because healthcare insurance costs will be going up, which is where most of us experience cost increases, even when we’re healthy. So why are we being taken by surprise here?

“But the insurance fee had been overlooked as employers focused on other costs in the law, including fines for medium and large firms that don’t provide coverage.

“‘This kind of came out of the blue and was a surprisingly large amount,’ said Gretchen Young, senior vice president for health policy at the ERISA Industry Committee, a group that represents large employers on benefits issues.”

But are we to worry?

“The Obama administration says it is a temporary assessment levied for three years starting in 2014, designed to raise $25 billion. It starts at $63 and then declines.”

The term “federal government” is the antipode of “temporary.” I don’t think we’ll get to “temporary” from here…

“It will phase out completely in 2017 — unless Congress, with lawmakers searching everywhere for revenue to reduce federal deficits — decides to extend it.”

And I smell an insurance industry benefit somewhere around here…

“America’s Health Insurance Plans, the major industry trade group for health insurers, says the fund is an important program that will help stabilize the market and mitigate cost increases for consumers as the changes in Obama’s law take effect.”

There it is. AHIP wouldn’t be shilling for the ACA if it didn’t translate into more revenues for members, i.e., the healthcare insurers. And the added costs will be passed onto employers, who will pass the costs along to employees.

But overall, won’t healthcare costs decrease, or at least stabilize under ACA?

“‘It just adds on to everything else that is expected to increase health care costs,’ said economist Paul Fronstin of the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute.”

Never mind.

There were only two admirable aspects of the ACA, one being that pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage (well, they still can’t be denied, but at what costs?), the other being the availability of healthcare coverage under a parent’s plan until a student is 26. Yet, even this latter benefit is questionable. Consider: Unless a student attends a university where nearby healthcare providers are in a plan’s network, the student will be required by the university to purchase healthcare coverage, usually adding $1,500 to $2,000 per school year, on top of tuition costs that are spiraling out of control.

So what do we have left? Certainly not “comprehensive” healthcare reform, not even legislation that provides a few good benefits despite some offsetting problems.

Had it not been for the additional costs incurred by the ACA, this act would have been completely forgotten in a few years. But it won’t be forgotten, because the costs won’t be forgotten.

Between this fund and requiring the uninsured to obtain insurance, it seems the ACA turned out to be the biggest boondoggle in history for healthcare insurers.

An alternative: Reinserting Citizens into U.S. Healthcare. And while you’re at it, consider this.

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