Abbott Laboratories chief executive Miles White said something last Tuesday that should jolt tens of millions of Americans who watch from a comfortable distance as the giant Obamacare blimp ignites and tumbles to the ground. These Americans are safely ensconced in employer-provided health care coverage — for now.
But there are “clear incentives for companies to drop their health care plans and move people onto the exchanges,” White told analysts at a luncheon, referring to the disastrously cranky and unreliable online insurance marketplaces created under Obamacare.
“I can tell you that the employees of Abbott or AbbVie (the pharmaceutical firm Abbott spun off in January) are going to be pretty unhappy about that, you know, if we did that,” White said.
If President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders think the outcry against Obamacare is fierce now, watch if millions more Americans get blindsided with the news that they’ll be forced into these dysfunctional government online marketplaces. Some will face higher premiums or higher deductibles, and they’ll be required to share private medical and financial information on a website with a questionable security firewall, opening them to fraudsters, hackers and cyberchaos.
The full brunt of Obamacare’s impact on Americans is still gathering. Every law creates winners and losers, but with this law so far, the losers are piling up:
• Millions of Americans have seen their individual coverage canceled and are scrambling to find new policies. Many are learning that their new coverage will probably cost more via higher premiums and deductibles … if they can break through the error messages to the HealthCare.gov website. The president’s tepid “fix” last week would allow (but not require) insurers to renew old individual policies for a year, if state regulators are on board with that. On Friday, Illinois officials announced they would allow this temporary remedy. Now we’ll see how Illinois insurers respond. Whatever happens, this move is only a delay. A complete overhaul of the federal law is still urgently needed.
• People who gain coverage through smaller employers are at risk of getting cancellation notices next year. Here’s why: Many businesses with fewer than 50 employees buy coverage in the small-group market. These plans can temporarily keep offering coverage that didn’t meet expensive Obamacare requirements. When that ends next year, though, many employers may cancel policies because Obamacare coverage will likely boost costs.
• Hospitals are bracing for financial turbulence as out-of-pocket deductibles climb and people find themselves liable for more of their medical bills before insurance kicks in, The Tribune’s Peter Frost reports.
In the past, hospitals could count on insurers to pay 80 to 90 percent of the cost of services, leaving the rest to patients. For patients with high-deductible plans, however, the insurer’s share drops to as low as 60 percent, with consumers on the hook for the balance. And if patients can’t pay? Hospitals can write it off as bad debt or, in some cases, charity care. But many hospitals are already operating on thin margins. Add them to the list of potential Obamacare losers in waiting.
Tens of millions of people who have coverage through large American companies aren’t losers … yet. The administration granted those businesses a one-year reprieve from the Obamacare mandate to provide coverage or pay penalties. That ends for 2015, and employers are already calculating what to do. Some may cut jobs, or employees’ hours, to avoid offering costly insurance coverage. Other companies may dump everyone into the federal exchanges and pay penalties that are almost certain to be less than what coverage would cost.
Some big employers have already joined privately run corporate health exchanges set up as alternatives to Obamacare. We expect that membership may swell in years to come, as many Americans become refugees from Obamacare.
There’s a lot more to learn about the consequences of this overreaching law.
[A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune]
As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by
NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis