The sick­en­ing toll of Oba­macare

Com­ing higher pre­mi­ums don’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to bet­ter health

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Oba­macare was sup­posed to pro­vide more Amer­i­cans with more af­ford­able health care. The re­sult would be fewer Amer­i­cans suf­fer­ing bud­get­break­ing med­i­cal ex­penses and more Amer­i­cans liv­ing a healthy life. Three years later, more Amer­i­cans are pay­ing more — in many cases a lot more — for health in­sur­ance. Some are dy­ing ear­lier than they should. The Oba­macare band­wagon took a wrong left turn on the road to the promised land.

The Af­ford­able Care Act open en­roll­ment pe­riod started Nov. 1, and many Amer­i­cans have come down with a bad case of sticker shock. Pre­mi­ums for the mid­dle-tier “sil­ver” plans will rise by an av­er­age of 7.5 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions by The Wall Street Jour­nal. A sur­vey by the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion finds that pre­mi­ums in Alaska, Min­nesota and Ten­nessee, for ex­am­ple, will jump by a third. Rates in Ari­zona, Ne­braska and North Carolina, for other ex­am­ples, will climb at least 20 per­cent, and by 10 per­cent in Iowa, Louisiana and South Carolina. In sell­ing his health-care con, Pres­i­dent Obama promised that the av­er­age fam­ily would save $2,500 a year on their pre­mi­ums. So much for “af­ford­able.”

Per­haps it’s af­ford­able if you’re a mem­ber of Congress or work at the White House. Even bail­ing out is hardly a vi­able op­tion now. Start­ing next year, the penalty, which goes by the eu­phemism “in­di­vid­ual shared re­spon­si­bil­ity pay­ment,” for hav­ing no health in­sur­ance will reach $695 per adult, or 2.5 per­cent of house­hold in­come, which­ever is higher. Some dar­ing folks are try­ing to save money by buy­ing a plan and fig­ur­ing to drop it a few months shy of year’s end. If they make it to Jan. 1 with­out ill­ness or in­jury, they will have saved enough to pay for part of the next year’s Oba­macare with­out in­cur­ring the fine.

Just as the pres­i­dent’s health-care plan is sup­posed to be pro­vid­ing “pa­tient pro­tec­tion,” Amer­i­cans are puz­zled by the move­ment away from pre­vi­ously rec­om­mended screen­ings. Ear­lier this year, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a scholar at the lib­eral Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, urged in an op-ed in The New York Times that Amer­i­cans should “skip your an­nual phys­i­cal” be­cause it’s “ba­si­cally worth­less,” and be­sides, “the check­ups con­sume bil­lions . . . .”

In his role as a “bioethi­cist,” Dr. Emanuel, who is 58, has writ­ten that life af­ter 75 is not worth liv­ing, and the “pub­lic good” should trump longevity as the goal of health care pol­icy.

Other deep thinkers in Wash­ing­ton might en­dorse the no­tion of a lit­tle more health care pain and a lit­tle less gain. In 2012, the rou­tine health pro­to­col for men was deemed over­done and the U.S. Pre­ven­tive Ser­vices Task Force rec­om­mended that doc­tors dis­con­tinue the Prostate Spe­cific Anti­gen (PSA) test for prostate can­cer screen­ing, say­ing that the ben­e­fits of the test were too small to war­rant fur­ther use. Last month, the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety pub­lished new breast can­cer screen­ing guide­lines rec­om­mend­ing that rou­tine mam­mo­grams for women should be de­layed from be­gin­ning at age 40 to be­gin­ning at age 45.

De­spite the mir­a­cles of medicine in the age of Obama, Amer­i­cans are not nec­es­sar­ily health­ier. A Prince­ton Univer­sity study finds the death rate for whites aged 45 to 54 has risen a half-per­cent per year since 1998. Sui­cide and drug and al­co­hol over­doses are blamed.

Oba­macare has sick­ened the body politic. A pres­i­dent who be­lieves him­self wise enough to re-en­gi­neer the Amer­i­can health care should have re­mem­bered the an­cient proverb, “physi­cian, heal thy­self,” and ap­plied it to ev­ery­body.

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