Imagine that you’re a contestant on “Let’s Make a Deal.” Behind Door No. 1 is a bill for $695, and behind Door No. 1 is a benefit worth over $10,000 per year for which you will have to pay $75 per month. Which door would you take?
You may be surprised to learn that 8.1 million people — approximately 20 percent of the people required by law — valued the Affordable Care Act benefit below $0. In fact, they were willing to pay fines totaling $1.7 billion to avoid enrolling in the ACA. Perhaps this is why in an unguarded moment former President Bill Clinton described the ACA as “the craziest thing in the world.” Think about that for a minute. Eight million people are paying money to stay out of the ACA. By my count, this program is a tremendous help to three million people, but it is significantly hurting far more than that number, including the at least three million who have lost their full-time jobs because of the ACA.
Think about this from another perspective. When the Medicare Modernization Act took effect, thousands of new health care plans were created to offer these new benefits. When the ACA passed, almost no new plans were created and most of those that were came through the 23 nonprofit organizations that the ACA allowed. Since my last column, the 17th of these 23, New Jersey’s, has now declared bankruptcy after “borrowing” over $109 million from the rest of us (taxpayers), money now long gone.
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, one of the early, strong advocates for the ACA, has now cried uncle, saying the ACA is no longer affordable. All the insurance providers threatened to leave Minnesota in 2017. To persuade them to stay, the state approved premium increases of 50 to 67 percent, on top of 14 to 49 percent increases last year. North Carolina’s rates are now finalized. BCBS originally proposed an increase of 18.8 percent, but its continued losses plus the departures of Aetna and Cigna from most states caused them to consider withdrawing also. Consequently, the state approved an average increase of 24.3 percent on top of an average last year of 32.5 percent.
Keep in mind that if you are a taxpayer, your family is also running up a tab of $18,000 over the next 10 years to pay for this program. Isn’t it time that we gave up politics and actually did what is right for our country and its citizens? I’ve spoken with people at Robeson County’s soup kitchen and every single person has suggested that they would rather have $700 per month subsidy for housing rather than health care. Think of the tremendous help we really could have done for the poor if we had developed a program that truly met the needs of more than three million people that represent less than 1 percent of our country’s population.
Eric Dent is Endowed Chair Professor of Ethics at Florida Gulf Coast University.