WATERS: Obamacare’s Kentucky success: A real fish tale

Posted by on June 4, 2015

Jim Waters head

I spot some information on Obamacare’s far seas where the Kentucky Department of Insurance rides on high waters, indicating the leak that began forming last year in the creaky boat carrying Kynect – Kentucky’s version of Obamacare – is expanding.

Is water filling this boat?

I listened closely as the insurance department on Wednesday revealed rate increases being requested for 2016 by insurers offering plans through the Kynect health exchange, and could have sworn to hearing gurgling noises coming from air pockets as Obamacare drowns in the sea of broken promises offered by its namesake.

President Obama while campaigning for office in 2008 promised: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”

The fact that the Kentucky Health Cooperative, which was created with taxpayer-funded loans for the express purpose of providing coverage to Kentuckians seeking subsidized insurance, is seeking a whopping 25-percent increase in its rates makes the president’s claims equivalent to a big fish tale from the high seas.

After the real size of this whopper was revealed, Obamacare defenders tried to walk it all back, claiming that what they really meant was the situation would have been much worse without their reforms.

“It’s an indication of just how much the health insurance reform debate has changed that Obamacare defenders are now thrilled that premiums are going up, on average, only 7 percent or 8 percent,” Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, told the Heartland Institute’s Health Care News. “They now proudly claim that’s no worse than it was before Obamacare – even though the promise had been that premiums would go down.”

This fish tale grows even longer when combining Kentucky Health Cooperative’s demand for a 25-percent rate this year with last year’s requested – and granted – 20 percent increase, which makes it a 45-percent increase just during the past two years.


Other states have their own favorite Obamacare fish tales.

Health Care Service Corp., the primary insurer in New Mexico’s exchange, wants a 52-percent spike.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee asked for an increase of 36 percent – which, since it’s an average like Kynect, means the smallest increase any Tennessean enrolled in the plan will get socked with is 20 percent while some get hooked with ginormous 60-percent hikes next year.

Similar ranges will occur within the Kentucky Health Cooperative Plan. Some Kentuckians will get hit with a much-larger increase in 2016 than the 25-percent “average” being sought by the financially struggling cooperative.

Rate increases aren’t the only factor contributing to the leak in Obamacare’s boat.

High-deductible plans purchased through exchanges have resulted in one in four of their customers skipping doctor’s appointments and important medical tests, according to a new Families USA study.

Even though these lower and middle-income Americans are ineligible for Medicaid and have purchased plans through a government-run exchange, they cannot afford to pay their premiums and out-of-pocket deductibles – a minimum of $1,500 on exchange plans – while still going to the doctor and obtaining important tests.

Even as they struggle, these enrollees are held up by Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as evidence of the Affordable Care Act’s success.

In this year’s State of the Commonwealth speech, Beshear praised Obamacare, claiming “Kentuckians will visit the doctor half-a-million more times” and that the program will result in “a higher quality of life.”

That claim has all the elements of a really good, developing fish tale, a real whopper – Obamacare-style.

It’s like being on a sinking boat in the ocean’s midst while dreaming you’re on dry land.

Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

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Jim Waters

Jim Waters

President at Bluegrass Institute
Jim Waters is President of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free market think tank. Jim uses his significant media experience as a reporter, editor and broadcaster at newspapers and radio stations in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio to grow the institute’s influence in Frankfort and its impact statewide. Jim is often quoted in the state’s major media sources on public policy issues and writes the Bluegrass Beacon, a weekly newspaper column that appears in publications statewide.