The Washington Post reports that Obamacare is off to a rocky start. One of its key early features — the one that allows people who are already sick to obtain insurance — is attracting few customers and costing more than expected.
As to the first matter, the chief actuary of the Medicare program predicted earlier this year that 375,000 people would sign up for the new pool plans by the end of 2010. As of early December, only 8,000 people had enrolled.
As to the second matter, the Post reports that in some states the “high-risk pools” are proving very costly. Thus, “it is an open question whether the $5 billion allotted by Congress to start up the plans will be sufficient.”
It is also an open question whether the high-risk pools are even serving their intended purpose — making affordable insurance available to people who are already sick. In addition to citing anecdotal evidence of how costly premiums are, the Post quotes one researcher who states, “from my perspective, [the new plans] are not a good match for people who have expensive conditions.” This may help explain why so few people are signing up.
The high-risk pools are only one aspect of Obamacare, of course. However, according to the Post, some health-policy researchers believe that “the success or failure of the pools could foreshadow the complexities of making broader charges in health insurance by 2014, when states are to open new marketplaces — or exchanges — for Americans to buy coverage individually or in small groups.”
At a minimum, I think the early experience with the high-risk pools foreshadows the unreliablility of key predictions made by Obamacare’s supporters. Look for the serious overstatement of benefits and the serious understatement of costs to be a constant feature as the rest of Obamacare is rolled out (assuming no repeal).
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