Today, the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), held its first hearing of the 115th Congress on how the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate—which forced Americans to buy insurance—has failed to stabilize the health insurance marketplace.
As Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) said:
“Forcing citizens to buy a product they simply didn’t want or suffer a tax penalty is un-American. Especially when, in many cases, that product is too expensive and not adequate.”
The architects of the Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—promised that forcing Americans to enroll in the marketplace through the individual mandate would be sufficient to offset many of the harmful effects of Obamacare rules and regulations. This was critical to keep costs down, improve coverage, and increase choices, they said.
The mandate has not lived up to these promises. Instead, the opposite has happened. Last tax-year 19.2 million taxpayers chose to pay a penalty or seek an exemption instead of receive Obamacare’s subsidized coverage—resulting in double-digit premium increases, diminishing access to care, and dwindling choices for those enrolled.
At the hearing, Members explained how the individual mandate’s empty promises have hurt their constituents.
Double-Digit Premium Increases
Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) shared what one family in his district is facing as they look at 2017 insurance options:
“Premiums for Obamacare plans in Pennsylvania are up 33% in 2017. Each year there are fewer plans to choose from than in the last. Fred from Lansdale wrote, ‘I received my annual health insurance rate increase for 2017 yesterday. My rates went up from $2,500 to over $3,750 per month. Last year’s increase was devastating. This year’s increase was even more overwhelming. I’m self-employed. This news is devastating to my family.’”
Diminishing Access to Care
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) shared the story of one of her constituents who, after open-heart surgery, is unable to find an Obamacare plan that will help pay for his life-saving prescriptions and check-ups with doctors at the Mayo Clinic:
“He had a private health insurance policy that he liked and covered his medical needs, but in 2015, it was grandfathered out by Obamacare. He was forced to buy a health care policy on the Marketplace, but unfortunately discovered at an annual check-up at Mayo Clinic that his doctors were not ‘in network’ because they were out of state. He was forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for the visit, in addition to thousands more out of pocket for his prescriptions … He recently learned that his Marketplace plan through UnitedHealthcare won’t offer individual market plans for his area in 2017. He was forced back onto the Marketplace to find a new health plan that still will not cover his out-of-state doctors.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) described one constituent who has been forced to pay more money for less health care choices:
“This year the counties in my district have lost insurance carriers. Monroe County lost one carrier and Miami-Dade lost two carriers participating on the exchange … Emilie is paying over $700 per month for a plan with a deductible that is over $6000, but she has been unable to find a doctor in her area who will accept her insurance. Even though she has insurance, her options are severely limited and premiums continue to increase.”
Rep. Jason Smith described a constituent who is unable to afford insurance for himself after paying for his family’s insurance:
“Out of the 30 counties in the 8th Congressional district in Missouri, individuals who are forced into the individual mandate, you know what their options are? Out of 30 counties, 26 of those 30 counties has one choice. Looks like adequate options? Absolutely not … I checked prices for insurance for a 61 year old man in his county of Missouri and it is somewhere in the neighborhood of $900 a month. That’s more than the typical rent payment in his neighborhood, and would likely represent one of the largest expenses he would be paying.”
Ways and Means Republicans are working to provide relief from Obamacare’s failed promises. In the weeks ahead, our Committee will take steps to repeal the individual mandate and move forward with step-by-step reforms that spur innovation and competition and deliver the affordable, quality health care Americans deserve.
For more information about House Republicans’ health care proposals, visit waysandmeans.house.gov/healthcarereform.
CLICK HERE to read “In Their Own Words: How Obamacare Hurts Americans of All Walks of Life”
CLICK HERE to read “Relief Is on the Way.”