You hear it over and over again: “This will be catastrophic for the 20 million people who were previously uninsured but now have coverage! You can’t take away their health care!”
First of all, no one is talking about doing that. Any repeal legislation will have a transition period for those who got coverage through Obamacare to move to new plans. And second, they will have more choices and better options. Win. Win.
But liberals would rather focus on quantity, how many millions we’ve given something to, versus quality, what does that “gift” mean for individual people.
The Obama administration claims 20 million more Americans today have health care due to Obamacare. The reality is that when you look at the actual net gains over the past two years since the program was fully implemented, the number is 14 million, and of that, 11.8 million (84 percent) were people given the “gift” of Medicaid.
And new research shows that even fewer people will be left without insurance after the repeal of Obamacare. Numbers are still being crunched, but between statistics released by the Congressional Budget Office and one of the infamous architects of Obamacare, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jonathan Gruber, it’s estimated that anywhere from 2 to 7 million people now on Medicaid would have qualified for the program even without Obamacare.
That further discredits the administration’s claim of 20 million more Americans having health insurance because of Obamacare.
Multiple studies have also shown that even those who are uninsured often have better outcomes than those with Medicaid. A University of Virginia study found that for eight different surgical procedures, Medicaid patients were more likely to die than privately insured or uninsured patients. They were also more likely to suffer complications.
And it is important to note that this study focused on procedures done from 2003-2007, prior to the geniuses in Washington deciding it was a good idea to put even more people on the already overburdened Medicaid system.
Additionally, despite what proponents of the law promised, there is little evidence to show that the use of emergency rooms, which have a higher level of medical errors, has decreased due to Obamacare.
Then there is this reality: While Obamacare has handed out millions of new Medicaid cards, that does not mean the recipients now have quality health care. In fact, it doesn’t ensure they have health care at all. That’s because increasing numbers of doctors aren’t accepting Medicaid.
As a Louisiana woman told The New York Times, “My Medicaid card is useless for me right now. It’s a useless piece of plastic. I can’t find an orthopedic surgeon or a pain management doctor who will accept Medicaid.”
Keep that in mind every time liberal Democratic senators pull out the Kleenex boxes bemoaning the fact Republicans are the ones trying to take people’s health care away.
Speaking of which, a much underreported fact of Obamacare is how many truly needy and disabled Americans are NOT getting the services they need because of the expansion of Medicaid for able-bodied adults (aka healthy) of prime working age, 19-54.
So while the left talks about all the new people Obamacare is helping, it neglects to mention that over half a million disabled people, from those with developmental disabilities to traumatic brain injuries, are on waiting lists for care.
And many of them are on waiting lists because Obamacare gives states more money to enroll able-bodied adults than it does to take care of disabled children and adults who qualified for Medicaid prior to Obamacare.
If you think that doesn’t have a real-world perverse impact, note this. Since Arkansas expanded its Medicaid program under Obamacare, it’s rolls have grown by 25 percent. During that same time, 79 people on the Medicaid waiting list who suffered from developmental disabilities have died. I would encourage you to read my former Heritage Foundation colleague Chris Jacob’s full piece on this.
Finally, it’s not just those enrolled in Medicaid that are finding fewer health care provider options. For people who now have health plans through the Obamacare exchanges, new Heritage Foundation research shows that this year, in 70 percent of counties across the country, those consumers will have only one or two insurers to choose from.
Add to that the millions of people who lost the doctors and health plans they liked and are now paying higher premiums for less coverage, and you can see that quality health care and anything resembling “choice” has quickly disappeared for an increasing number of Americans due to Obamacare.
So the next time a defender of Obamacare tries to take the moral high ground about the millions of people the law has helped, ask them to define what “help” looks like.
Commentary by The Daily Signal's Genevieve Wood. Genevieve Wood advances policy priorities of The Heritage Foundation as senior contributor to The Daily Signal. Send an email to Genevieve.
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