Obamacare Brought Down My Health Care Premiums

We don't know if the Affordable Care Act will cure all the ills in our health care system, but it is better than more inaction.

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Doctor holding stethoscope

The snippy tone of the letter from my health insurance company really threw me for a minute. Very officious, very much this-is-totally-not-our-fault-the-bad-government-made-us-do-it, the letter informed me that because of the Affordable Care Act, my premium might change. Under the law, as of this year, insurance carriers would no longer be allowed to differentiate (or discriminate) on the basis of gender, and this, I was informed in a letter dripping with derision, might end up affecting how much I have to pay for my individual insurance each month.

Well, it did. My premiums are now 7 percent lower than they were.

[See a collection of political cartoons on health care.]

Yes, that's lower. Despite the fact that foes of Obamacare are screaming about how the law will bankrupt families and small businesses (the impact on buyers of individual policies never seems to come up), despite all the pols showing that Americans are terrified that their health care costs will grow, my premium went down. This will not be true for everyone—it was women who were routinely charged more for insurance for no other reason than their gender. That includes, incidentally, the handful of states in which it was perfectly legal for insurance companies to deem victims of domestic violence as having a "pre-existing condition." But it's reason to believe that the worry—verging on hysteria—over the law might be a bit much.

Health care costs are absurdly high in this country, and they must be reined in. And it's not because we have the best health care in the world; we don't. If you need a heart transplant, yes, this is where you want to be. But for most of the health care most of us will need in our lives, we are simply not getting the bang for our buck.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Does the Supreme Court's Healthcare Ruling Help Obama?]

Health care premiums may indeed go up for many people, but they were going up before Obamacare was passed. That was the point of trying to do health care reform. That was the point during the Nixon administration, when both parties worried about the social and financial impact of the uninsured. It was the point in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, and at nearly every campaign stop, someone told a sad story of a child with leukemia, and an insurance company refusing to pay for the treatments, or of someone who got laid off and couldn't get a job because he had a "pre-existing condition" the new employer would find too expensive to cover through its insurance. The problem has merely gotten worse every single time Congress and the White House built the momentum to do something and came close but ultimately failed.

Is Obamacare the cure? The reality is, three years after the law was passed, is that we simply don't know. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was criticized for saying we don't know what the law will do until it's in place, but she was right. That's true of a lot of sweeping legislation (No Child Left Behind being the best recent example). The idea is to give it a shot, and then tweak it where necessary.

One thing is clear—doing nothing, yet again, was not an option.

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