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EDITORIAL: Obamacare not getting more affordable

When President Barack Obama unveiled the Affordable Care Act, it was quickly and mockingly renamed “Obamacare” by Republicans and others. The name stuck, and the president eventually embraced it.

“I actually like the name,” he told a crowd at the University of Denver in 2012. “Because I do care — that’s why we fought so hard to make it happen.”

Aside from the pride associated with (at least in his mind) having a huge piece of legislation renamed in his honor, the new name benefits the president in another way: The less often the words “Affordable Care Act” are mentioned, the less often people are reminded of how affordable health care was supposed to be under his plan.

President Obama promised Americans that the Affordable Care Act would result in average annual savings of $2,500 per family — by the end of his first term, he said — and allow us to keep our existing health care plans and doctors. Yet the costs keep going up for most Americans, whether they have an Obamacare exchange plan, an individual plan or one supplied through their employer. And the costs will keep going up in 2015.

As was recently pointed out in the Washington Examiner, the main way Obamacare drives up the cost of health insurance is by requiring insurers to offer numerous benefits and cover everybody who applies for it, whether they have pre-existing conditions or not. The legislation then limits the amount insurers can charge older and sicker patients compared with younger, healthier patients, thus driving up costs for the younger, healthier group.

According to a study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Obamacare has increased the underlying cost of health insurance for individuals in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, compared with 2013. While Nevada’s rates won’t go up much in most cases in 2015 — and in some cases may even go down — their increase for next year is only tempered because a huge increase already hit the state last Jan. 1.

One factor that has kept rates from increasing even more has been insurers responding to Obamacare requirements by limiting the number of doctors and hospitals available in their plans — though the limited offerings did result in consumers in California filing a lawsuit against California’s for-profit health insurer.

Some defenders of the law also cite subsidies available to millions of Americans, which provide care at a fraction of the cost. They often fail to mention, however, the countless other Americans who don’t qualify for subsidies and who have to pay the full rate for insurance or pay a penalty. (An aside: In the latest Obamacare setback, Tuesday’s 2-1 decision from a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could erase federal subsidies for millions of Americans, though an appeal of that decision from the Obama administration is already in the works.)

Obamacare will also result in insurance plans being taxed more than $100 billion between 2014 and 2022, with the Congressional Budget Office concluding that the taxes “would be largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums for private coverage.”

Even if the price increases associated with Obamacare were modest, they would still be more than what President Obama promised we’d see under the new legislation. If we couldn’t trust him regarding the enacting of Obamacare, how can we trust him regarding its continued implementation?

No fixes will do. The Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed.

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