No one really knows how much Obamacare is going to cost the American government or the American people. All we really know for certain, something that a number of public and private econometric studies have backed up, is that it will be more expensive than the president led us to believe it would be.
There are efforts underway to establish the true costs, or at least to help the American people understand what the out-of-pockets expense will be for them. In early February the House Ways and Means Committee started a website, Obamacare Burden Tracker as a real-time resource to "help the public keep track of all of the new government mandates, rules, and red tape" resulting from the new healthcare law.
They're not the only ones. A group called SHOUTAmerica, a nonprofit group founded to "educate young Americans about healthcare and serve as a resource so that all are better equipped to navigate the system and the challenges it faces" has created Young Americans for Affordable Healthcare, a web-based group intended to help younger workers understand what the costs of Obamacare are to them.
The principle feature of the Young Americans site is a calculator allowing users to plug in a few simple numbers like age and zip code and come up with an estimated change in their health insurance costs for 2014. The data it uses comes from the well-respected firm Oliver Wyman, a leading international management consulting firm that is part of Marsh and McLennan.
The numbers take into into account the federal subsidies available to purchase health insurance coverage based upon income, Medicaid eligibility, taxes and fees, new age rating rules and other insurance market reforms, essential health benefits, the transitional reinsurance program, and other factors that will have an impact on premiums under the terms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
While the calculator uses national averages, meaning actual results may be slightly different from those shown, it nonetheless is a useful tool for developing a clear understanding of just what Obamacare will do to the costs of insurance for those, especially young workers, who are not part of a group plan and are buying insurance individually. And the picture is not a pretty one.
The idea behind Obamacare was that it was supposed to bend the healthcare cost curve downward while allowing people to keep the doctors and insurance they already had. It was sold to the American people as a salve for rising costs that would help those who did not have insurance while inconveniencing hardly at all those who did. The reality as we already know it to be is starkly different. Costs are projected to go up, the number of people who have already lost their insurance has risen precipitously, and states are already beginning to warn they are facing a shortage of qualified doctors and other medical personnel and may not be able to keep up with future demand.
To put it simply, the American people were sold a pig in a poke. If "repeal and replace" is no longer an option—and let us hope that is not at all the case—then Congress must take the lead on reforming the mess as it considers how to fund the implementation of the new law over the next two years.