No, Bill Clin­ton didn't call Oba­macare ‘crazy’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Froma Har­rop

Colum­nist Froma Har­rop says the for­mer pres­i­dent’s com­ment has been taken out of con­text.

Spurred by scream­ing head­lines about “sky­rock­et­ing” pre­mi­ums on some gov­ern­ment in­sur­ance ex­changes, Oba­macare foes are dredg­ing up Bill Clin­ton’s col­or­ful quote re­gard­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act. No, Clin­ton didn’t call it “crazy.”

This is what Clin­ton said (af­ter not­ing that over 20 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans now have health care): “The peo­ple who are out there bust­ing it, some­times 60 hours a week, wind up with their pre­mi­ums dou­bled and their cov­er­age cut in half. It’s the cra­zi­est thing in the world.”

And he’s right about this as­pect of Oba­macare. Some­thing’s wrong when the poor and mid­dling are sub­si­dized and those over 65 — pau­pers and bil­lion­aires alike — bask in the se­cu­rity of Medi­care but the mid­dle and up­per-mid­dle classes get whacked, or seem to.

Let’s put the mat­ter in con­text and in pro­por­tion. Let’s do some grown-up ex­plain­ing.

To start, the un­sub­si­dized folks fac­ing 25 per­cent jumps in pre­mi­ums (mi­dlevel plans are the bench­mark) are a small group. Less than 10 per­cent of Amer­i­cans buy in­sur­ance on the fed­eral and state ex­changes. That’s about 12 mil­lion peo­ple, vs. the 155 mil­lion who are cov­ered at work. And 86 per­cent of peo­ple on the gov­ern­ment ex­changes get fed­eral as­sis­tance to pay their pre­mi­ums. More will qual­ify for sub­si­dies as the pre­mi­ums go up.

Se­condly, the 25 per­cent fig­ure is an av­er­age. The in­creases are very large in Phoenix (up 145 per­cent) and Birm­ing­ham, Ala. (up 71 per­cent). But in Ohio, it’s only 2 per­cent, and in a few mar­kets, pre­mi­ums are ac­tu­ally go­ing down. In Prov­i­dence, R.I., for ex­am­ple, they’ve fallen 14 per­cent.

Oba­macare over­all hasn’t been a bad deal, even for most of the un­sub­si­dized cus­tomers us­ing the gov­ern­ment mar­ket­places. Af­ter adding in the stiff 2017 price in­creases, av­er­age ex­change pre­mi­ums will still be lower than pre­dicted when the health care re­form law was en­acted in 2010.

Fur­ther­more, un­sub­si­dized pre­mi­ums on the gov­ern­ment ex­changes have ac­tu­ally been 10 per­cent lower than the full pre­mi­ums in em­ploy­ers’ plans. That’s an av­er­age $464 a month, vs. $516.


Free­man Letters to the edi­tor 79 Hur­ley Ave., Kingston, NY 12401

Work­ers of­ten think of their costs as what they di­rectly con­trib­ute for their com­pany’s cov­er­age. They don’t con­sider what the em­ployer pays.

The mar­kets suf­fer­ing the big­gest surge in pre­mium costs are those where in­sur­ers are pulling out or back. In North Carolina, for ex­am­ple, 95 of the coun­ties have only one in­surer, and five have only two.

The rea­son, in­sur­ers say, is that the pool of cus­tomers is sicker than an­tic­i­pated. It’s no small irony that one rea­son more healthy spec­i­mens didn’t sign up is that em­ploy­ers haven’t been ditch­ing their com­pany plans as Oba­macare’s en­e­mies said would hap­pen. And peo­ple on em­ployer plans tend to be health­ier.

What do we do about this? First off, elect Hil­lary Clin­ton

Phone: 845-331-5000 pres­i­dent. She un­der­stands health care in­side and out.

Don­ald Trump knows zip. “All of my em­ploy­ees are hav­ing a tremen­dous prob­lem with Oba­macare,” he said. Not true! Most of his work­ers are on his com­pany plans, which means they’re not on Oba­macare.

Clin­ton is call­ing for a “pub­lic op­tion,” a gov­ern­ment-run in­sur­ance plan that could boost com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­places.

Clin­ton would let Amer­i­cans ages 55 to 64 buy in to Medi­care. She should keep mov­ing down the age lad­der un­til every­one’s get­ting Medi­care — and Amer­ica has one ef­fi­cient and un­com­pli­cated sys­tem for health cov­er­age.

Could Oba­macare have been bet­ter de­signed? Sure. As they say in pol­i­tics, a camel is a horse made in com­mit­tee. But this camel func­tions a lot bet­ter than the wheez­ing health-cov­er­age beast we had in the pre-Oba­macare era. Now that was crazy.

Froma Har­rop is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

Twit­ter: @dai­lyfree­man @pre­viewfree­man

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