The simple question that will determine Obamacare’s fate

The simple question that will determine Obamacare’s fate

The key to Obamacare’s success or failure — provided the administration can actually learn to operate the system — is whether it helps more people than it hurts, or hurts more people than it helps. President Obama’s promise — repeated as recently as this week — that the law will make the health care system “better for everybody” is clearly not true. What’s not clear is how many people will reap the benefits of Obamacare’s redistributive scheme.

There’s some new information in a just-finished study by the pro-reform Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimates that 17 million people who are currently uninsured or who buy insurance on the individual market will be eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies next year. That’s a lot of people. But then Kaiser adds: “We also estimate that about 29 million people nationally could look to new marketplaces as a place to purchase coverage.”

So of 29 million people who might enter the Obamacare exchanges, about 17 million would be eligible for subsidies. That’s about 59 percent who would be eligible for taxpayer-paid assistance, versus 41 percent who are not. That’s a majority on the subsidy side, but not a huge one. Then figure that some of those who are eligible for help will only be eligible for very small subsidies. For example, a family of four in St. Louis, Missouri with one parent who earns $48,000 and another who earns $37,000 would be eligible for a subsidy — all of $13 per year, to pay for an $8,088 policy — that is virtually no help at all. (The numbers come from the Kaiser Foundation’s online subsidy calculator.)

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