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In 2013, Jeb Bush made a comment critical of Republican efforts to defund ObamaCare, saying that we should instead let the law fall apart on its own. It was kind of an insensitive approach, given the number of lives that depend on a health care system that actually works, and I believe he was tactically misguided, but he was right about one thing: ObamaCare is falling apart, slowly but surely.
We are only a couple of weeks out from the King v. Burwell decision that many are saying could deal a staggering blow to ObamaCare, by putting an end to illegal subsidies currently propping the law up. Supporters of the law are, therefore, hoping for a ruling to preserve the subsidies, with the administration actively not planning for any other outcome.
But even if the Court rules in favor of the defendants, it will merely be delaying the inevitable, The fact of the matter is that ObamaCare is so badly broken that no amount of subsidies will be able to keep it afloat forever.
My colleagues have repeatedly pointed out how the state insurance exchanges are collapsing under their own weight, and rising premiums and deductibles are keeping these supposedly “affordable” insurance plans out of reach for many Americans. Now, we’re seeing new enrollment numbers that confirm what we’ve always known: the system doesn’t work, and it’s getting worse every year.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projected that there would be 21 million enrollees by 2016. Over the last five years, the administration has continually fallen short of its estimates. This month, the Department of Health and Human Services posted current enrollments at just 10.2 million - only half of the target for next year. There’s no way they’re going to reach this target, considering that the people most eager to enroll - the low-hanging fruit - have already done so. This is bad news for pretty much everyone.
It’s bad news for President Obama, because it means that his signature - and practically only significant - accomplishment in two terms in the White House is a failure. It’s bad news for insurance companies, because they are not taking in enough revenue to cover all the people they are being forced to cover by law. And it’s especially bad news for American citizens, because it means that prices will have to skyrocket for insurers to make up the difference. As prices get higher, fewer people will be able to pay them, meaning they will have to drop off the plans, meaning that prices will have to go still higher - a repeating cycle known as the insurance premium death spiral.
King v. Burwell is going to be a significant crossroads for the Affordable Care Act, make no mistake, but in this case, all roads ultimately lead to the same place: collapse. It’s just a matter of how we get there and how many people are hurt along the way be irresponsible policies.