Long time critics of Obamacare will be happy to learn that the program is experiencing growing pains. Ironically praised for their universal affordability, premiums will be going up an average of 20% nationwide within the next year.
Health insurance is hard to understand on a good day. Nevertheless, here are the basics:
In the barest terms possible there are two choices: Obamacare or a private insurance plan. Obamacare benefits the previously uninsured and lower income class who cannot afford a more stylized, expensive plan. People employed in larger companies often have insurance offered through their employer.
Obamacare was signed into law mid-2012 under the name “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. It is also known as the “Affordable Care Act.” The legislation required all U.S citizens to have health insurance. For those Americans who could not afford or did not have access to health insurance through their employer, the government offered Obamacare, the cheaper federal option. The program offers basic healthcare to those who could otherwise not afford it. Obamacare has been crucial to providing medical aid to low income individuals.
While universal health insurance sounds ideal, not everyone is happy. In the past, health insurance was optional. Today, those who decide not to buy coverage are required to pay a fee, and judging by the cost of the fee, it would be beneficial to pay for the insurance. In addition, a group of Americans whose income is too high to qualify for government help are having a hard time paying for the coverage-especially with the rising premiums. The policy works most efficiently for the lower classes who receive government subsidies to pay for health care. The rich or upper middle class can afford the option of public or private insurance.
But why are the premiums rising? Because insurance companies, affiliated with Obamacare, have to currently cater to everybody despite preexisting medical conditions, they can no longer choose to only insure individuals who are generally healthy. They have to make a profit somehow, and since it usually will not come (in a timely manner) from those who are not otherwise healthy, they need their typical pool of customers to make up the difference. This entire argument is applicable only if the insurance company continues to work with Obamacare. After 2016, government programs used to help with the transition will cease. Many are pulling out due to the massive loss in profits, leaving countless people uninsured with few options. In the end, the insurance companies are simply just a business, a business that needs to make a profit to survive.
What does this mean for North Carolina? Unfortunately the Tarheel state has premiums rising above the national average. North Carolina is increasing premiums 40% on average and up to 80% in rural areas. To make matters worse, there are only two insurance carriers remaining in North Carolina for 2017: Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna. The majority of North Carolina will only have one insurance option since Cigna is only available in six counties out of one hundred around Raleigh and Durham. Currently, Unitedhealthcare, which is currently the nation's largest insurer, provides insurance to nearly 80% of North Carolina. According to Forbes, “One quarter of North Carolina’s 600,000 exchange enrollees, those who reside in 39 counties will lose their second insurer option and be left with Blue Cross and Blue Shield as their only one.” Similar situations are happening nationwide as more and more insurance carriers withdraw from Obamacare.
Besides affecting individuals, businesses are also having a harder time finding a plan that fits their company needs. Note: a business does not have to (and often will not) offer insurance to its workers if there are less than 50 employees. Small businesses are set to suffer the most in this aspect.
Both presidential candidates agree that Obamacare needs reform. When asked about the rising premiums, Hillary Clinton is in favor of improving the existing ordinance for a federal public option that “competes directly with for-profit insurance companies.”
Donald Trump opposes the public plan in lieu of getting rid of Obamacare completely and “starting over”. He recently released a 7-point plan detailing his proposed process of repeal. Obamacare is on the fast track to a crash and burn once 2017 hits. Comparable to the tragedy of the housing crisis, all governmental programs that were set to stabilize the system during the transition period will run out at the end of 2016.
A message to those buying insurance this year: open enrollment began on Nov. 1. Good luck.