‘You’re Sounding a Little Defensive’: Fox Host Challenges Obamacare Architect on Major Insurer’s Exit from Exchanges

UnitedHealth, the United States’ largest health insurance provider, is planning to exit the Obamacare state exchange program by next year, citing major losses expected to top $1 billion for 2015-2016.

When Fox Business Network anchor Stuart Varney asked Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the chief architects of the Affordable Care Act, how they plan to keep insurers like UnitedHealth in the system, the doctor attempted to downplay the provider’s decision.

Image source: Fox Business Network screen grab
Image source: Fox Business Network screen grab

“We need to put United into context,” Emanuel said. “United was very tepid about joining the exchanges early on, did very little, has never really been an active player. Even at its absolute peak, the largest insurer in the country, as you mentioned, had 6 percent of the exchange market.”

“Doctor, you’re sounding a little defensive,” Varney replied. “Obamacare’s in trouble with its insurers thinking about leaving. I think you’ll acknowledge you’ve got a problem here, won’t you?”

Emanuel then pivoted to the fact that, despite 39 providers exiting the exchange last year, 40 others joined the program. But Varney continued to press him, telling Emanuel, “You need to keep the United healthcares of this world in [the exchange].”

“What do you do? Is it a government subsidy?” he asked.

Though he seemingly dodged directly answering that question, Emanuel offered three improvements that need to be made to the system: enticing more healthy people to join the exchanges, continue to “educate” the public on the cost of the program and add “risk insurance and corridors,” which he says are not subsidies.

But the Fox host continued pressing Emaneul nonetheless: “It’s not going well, doctor, and you know it.” However, Emanuel said Varney’s charge that the exchange system is falling apart is “simply wrong.”

Ultimately, the two men just flat-out disagreed.

“You have no idea how many people come to us and say, ‘These deductibles, they’re killing me. It’s not insurance, it’s just, I’m paying through the nose,'” Varney lamented.

“You have no idea how many people come to me and complain, ’80 percent of the people in these exchanges are getting a subsidy — I’m paying for them.’ It goes on, and on, and on. You can’t tell me that Obamacare’s a wild success.”

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