• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • The Uninsured Numbers Are Bad, but Obamacare Can Make Them Worse

    The Census Bureau’s annual snapshot out today shows there were 50.7 million, or 16.7 percent of the population, without health coverage in 2009. These numbers come as the nation experiences a growing shift from private health coverage to more expansive public health programs.

    Given today’s high rates of unemployment and the fact that most Americans get health insurance through their employers, the increased number of uninsureds comes as no surprise. The exodus from job-based insurance will only escalate under Obamacare.

    The CMS actuary estimates that, under the president’s system, approximately 14 million Americans will lose or be moved out of their existing job-based coverage, and be enrolled in government-based plans. The new Census data shows the percentage of people in private insurance (63.9 percent) at a record low, while those in government health programs (30.6 percent) are at a record high.

    Other analysts expect this displacement to be much higher, with the continuing “crowd-out” of private coverage worsening and millions more Americans enrolled in the low-quality Medicaid program.

    Familiar Pattern. The Census findings confirm a familiar pattern. The vast majority of uninsured Americans are disproportionately young, healthy people. They work in small firms, often as part-timers, or in industries that don’t typically offer health insurance. Many had coverage and lost it, usually due to a job change or third-party decisions they had little control over.

    This makes the health insurance market notoriously unstable.  Americans lose and gain coverage, transitioning in and out of state markets, which often are dominated by a few giant insurance companies. These consumer-unfriendly markets often are saturated with mandates and special rules foisted upon powerless consumers at the request of powerful special interests.

    Meaningless Choice. Under Obamacare, distant federal officials will make our “choices” for us, and we will pay (mostly through higher taxation) for those choices. Plus, for the first time in American history, we will be assessed tax penalties for not making certain choices. Yet Obamacare still will not be able to deliver anything close to universal coverage.

    An estimated 23 million Americans will still lack coverage, and more than half of those who do gain coverage will be pushed into Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income families. Medicaid, which pays doctors about 56 percent of what private insurers pay, has a history of offering patients less access to physicians, lower quality of care, and poorer outcomes when compared with private health plans.

    Plus, patients enrolled in Medicaid and SCHIP are twice as likely as the uninsured to use hospital emergency rooms for non-urgent medical problems. Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin projects $36 billion in additional health care costs from Medicaid’s expansion under Obamacare. Curiously, Obamacare supporters claimed there would be a reduction in emergency room usage. Fat chance.

    Higher Uninsurance? Despite $1 trillion in additional spending—plus the law’s mandates and penalties—Congressmen cannot guarantee that Obamacare will relieve the nation’s rising uninsured rate. Much depends on the implementation of the law’s contradictory provisions and policy objectives.

    For example, higher health costs make coverage less affordable and contribute to the rising uninsured population. Obamacare guarantees higher health costs. Record-breaking Medicare provider payment reductions and the massive Medicaid expansion guarantees even more cost-shifting to the private sector. Analysts already have forecasted higher premiums, between 1 percent and 9 percent, for major insurers. And the tens of billions of dollars in new taxes will be passed onto consumers.

    Indirectly, the new law creates incentives for even more market instability. It outlaws pre-existing condition exclusions from coverage and requires guaranteed issue of coverage. While these are important issues, the requirements are set up in a way that are likely to encourage young and healthy consumers to forego health insurance until they become sick. Congress tried to solve this problem with unconstitutional mandates, but the penalties don’t make it worthwhile for consumers to take on high insurance premiums.

    Need for a New Policy. Today’s uninsured numbers reflect the impact of a sluggish economy. If Congress and the White House were to implement serious policies to spur economic growth in the private sector, these rates would decline. But pro-growth economic policies cannot solve the fundamental problems in the nation’s health insurance markets. Only sound and carefully calibrated, market-based health care policy will accomplish that. Read about those policies here.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to The Uninsured Numbers Are Bad, but Obamacare Can Make Them Worse

    1. Kevin Habib, College says:

      I can't understand how you can say there is no evidence that the uninsurance rates will not decrease, when CBO shows it will reduced the ranks of uninsured by tens of millions of Americans…and have roughly 95% of all Americans in some type of coverage.

      Thankfully, it outlaws pre-existing condition exclusions. I'm sure folks funding heritage don't want to see that because it means less money in their for-profit health schemes, but it's an absolute necessity.

      And to point to 1 to 9% increase in insurance premiums? In my eyes, that's a vast improvement over the huge premium increases we've seen in last 2 decades – in the last decade alone, we've seen increases over 130%.

      Simply astonishing that you and Heritage sit here saying health reform bill is terrible, while you and your colleague on the right has power of the White House and Congress for 6 years and did not try anything to fix this huhe problem. You know with certainty, health insurance issues and spending on Medicare adn Medicaid will destroy our economy if nothing is done, and that is exactly what the right did when in power – nothing – except add trillions in unfunded mandate by passing 2003 Medicare Part D. You all had your chance to do something, but decided it was too difficult politically, so you kicked the can down the road – just like you did with deficits and debts – so you can scream at the next person for doing a bad job.

      It's obvious to see you don't have any solutions – just look at your link – you have 5 bullet points on how to fix the problem. That's laughable. 5 bullet points to fix it all – just shows you have no solutions and like the rest of the right, just complain about every single thing.

    2. DB Houston, TX says:

      The vast majority of uninsured Americans are disproportionately young, healthy people.

      Over 50 million Americans with no health insurance and you dismiss them as young and healthy. It would be difficult to be more cavalier than that.

    3. Pingback: New Census Data Provides More Fodder for Reform Law Debate | DOCTOR PUNDIT

    4. Bobbie says:

      It is obvious to see you are ignorant of solutions, Mr. Habib. You, like many others of the same mindset, appreciate and exploit personal weakness instead of following a REAL MAN of strength and endurance, Jesus Christ. Live where government can feed you, somewhere outside the strength of Americans.

    5. Billie says:

      I have a preexisting condition and have NEVER been denied insurance (I may soon when things start hitting.) This is not only exaggerated, there are hidden and extenuating circumstances to those that were denied and much of it was lack of communication or misinformation from the one supposedly being denied. .

    6. Billie says:

      Mr. Habib, what does INSURANCE have to do with government health care? NOTHING BUT MONEY AND PAPERWORK AND MAKE-WORK ALL FOR UNPRODUCTIVE GOVERNMENT!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.