This week we all watched the drama of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) unfold to defeat. But I would hardly call the bill's failure a "victory for all Americans" as Hillary Clinton did. The House bill may not have been the answer, but neither is the status quo. We still have almost 29 million Americans without healthcare coverage. When the Affordable Care Act was passed back in 2010 there were 36 million chronically uninsured, so the net gain is only around 7 million, not the 20 million frequently touted (source: CDC). But having insurance only gets us so far and it is increasingly becoming obvious that our health insurance is not much of a safety net.
A study reported in the January 5, 2016 issue of The New York Times reveals that even the insured can face crushing medical debt and it doesn't matter if you make $25,000 a year or over $100,000 a year. Of those reporting difficulty paying their medical bills, 39 percent had employer based insurance, and 7 percent had bought their own commercial policy. And despite having insurance, 63 percent burned through their savings and retirement funds to pay for big bills that insurance didn't cover. Over 25 percent of the people in the study who were struggling were paying for medical care their insurance company had denied.
So let's talk about those big bills. In Semper Avanti I talk about how we were thrown into private pay when our insurance company denied, denied, and denied again the acute rehab our health plan actually covered. I was quoted a private pay rate that was more than four times what the insurance company had been paying. Bob's daily rate was going from $420 to $1750 a day. And, seriously, I was expected to pay this.
I wonder just how many of the 63 percent burning through their money so fast were paying four times more than what health plans were paying for the same thing. My experience says most of them probably were.
So while there were serious problems with the American Healthcare Act, there is nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act.