Just because Obamacare hasn’t been dominating headlines recently doesn’t mean nothing’s going on. In fact, there has been a constant barrage of bad news regarding the health care overhaul.
Here are the three most important stories you probably won’t have read.
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Strike 1: Job Losses
While the White House has vehemently denied that Obamacare is hurting employment, a recent survey of businesses conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia might have just provided the needed proof that the law is forcing businesses to cut employment and, in many more cases, health benefits for their employees.
The bank’s employer survey asked: “How, if at all, are you changing (or have you changed) any of the following because of the effects the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is having on your business?”
According to the Business Outlook Survey findings:
“Over 18 percent of the firms indicated that the number of workers they employ was lower because of the ACA; 3 percent indicated higher levels. The same percentage (18 percent) indicated that the proportion of part‐time workers had increased."
That almost one in five employers reduced employment as a result of Obamacare should be alarming. The survey also found that about one-half of employers had changed their health insurance offerings as a result of the law. The report continues:
"Regarding health insurance benefit coverage, 41 percent said their coverage was unchanged, but 52 percent indicated modifications to their offerings. Among those modifying their health insurance coverage, higher deductibles (91 percent), higher worker contributed premiums (88 percent), and higher out‐of‐pocket maximums (77 percent) were the most cited changes."
Under the law’s employer mandate, employers with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalents are required to offer “qualified and affordable” health insurance coverage to their employees. This provision of the law was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but was delayed for one year by the Obama administration and was recently delayed again for another year for those employers with 50-99 full-time or full-time equivalent employees.
Strike 2: Over Budget
While the inept rollout of the Obamacare exchange is already well-documented, the price tag for HealthCare.gov continues to increase. According to a new report by the U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General, there are cost over-runs for one-third of the contractors building the website.
In fact, seven of the contractors exceeded the expected contract value by more than 100 percent.
CGI Federal, which was featured prominently in last fall’s Energy and Commerce hearing on the botched rollout, was the contractor in two of those seven contracts (SphereCom Enterprises was also a contractor in tow of those seven contracts.)
Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General
Unfortunately, no one really knows how high the cost of the website will reach. The website’s payment system, which was supposed to be operational for the site launch, is not scheduled to be completed until 2015.
The Congressional Budget Office put the obligated exchange cost at $840 million earlier this year, but considering that the newest estimate already jumped to an astounding $1.7 billion, the final cost will likely be much higher.
Strike 3: Enrollment Already Shrinking
Months after the end of the Obamacare inaugural open enrollment period, the federal government has yet to reveal the number of enrollees who have actually paid for a plan. The reported enrollment number continues to count only people who put a plan in their shopping cart. But based on one insurer’s estimates, exchange enrollment is likely already facing serious attrition.
Aetna, which is the nation’s third-largest insurer, is estimating that 30 percent of the “enrollees” either never paid their first month’s premium or will have stopped paying by year’s end. While other insurers’ experiences might be different, the number of actual enrollees seems to be on a rapid decline.
Job losses, cost overruns, and shrinking enrollment are just three more reasons why it is time to go back to the drawing board to craft solutions that address health care costs and give individuals control, rather than giving federal bureaucrats more authority over health care decisions.
Naomi Lopez Bauman is the director of health policy at the Illinois Policy Institute (www.illinoispolicy.org). You can follow her on Twitter at @LopezBauman.
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