The answer is no, but it's certainly killing someone.
As Obama gets ready to continue his journey into Republicanism by (most likely) accepting a debt-ceiling deal that continues to let millionaires and billionaires avoid taxes while cutting spending on programs the middle class needs, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the first year or so of ObamaCare had affected the insurance industry.
I thought that would be interesting in part because while I am trying to defend ObamaCare, Obama seems not interested in defending it at all. I don't mind if Obama has decided to be a one-term president -- but turning over the keys to the White House two years early seems excessive, even for The Man Who Stopped Caring.
And I thought it would be interesting because we keep hearing that ObamaCare is a job killer and a drag on the economy.
So is it?
21 different parts of ObamaCare took effect in 2010, ranging from a review of health care premiums (with the establishment of a rule for doing so being set up in May of this year) to a requirement that not-for-profit hospitals try harder to assist those with financial needs to the creation of a pre-existing condition program to provide insurance to those who had been both uninsured for 6 months or longer and had pre-existing conditions.
(Hard to see what's objectionable about those, isn't it? I wonder why the Republicans would oppose allowing people with health conditions to buy insurance, or why they would want to prevent nonprofit hospitals from providing care to the needy?)
An additional 18 parts have been implemented so far in 2011, including the "Minimum Medical Loss Ratio for Insurers In Effect," which requires that insurers provide rebates if they don't spend at least 80% of the premiums they receive on actually providing health care.
No, really: it took a federal law to do that, to require that insurers use at least 80% of the money they receive, money which is paid to provide health care, to actually provide health care.
Also funded: $50 million in grants to states to help implement tort reform to reduce medical malpractice suits.*
*Wait, what? I didn't see anyone voting to cut that in the debt ceiling debates. Really, it's like we elected a Republican in 2008 but he waited 3 years to tell us. I keep expecting Obama to rip off a latex mask and underneath is Dick Cheney.
The 2011 rollouts also included provisions increasing payments to hospitals for increased graduate medical training, oh, and here's something interesting: the income threshold for income-related Medicare Part B premiums were frozen, which resulted in more people paying income-related premiums, and reduced the subsidy for high-income people.**
**Wait, what? "Reduced the subsidy" for people making $85,000 a year but still getting Medicaid? We are subsidizing people who make $85,000 per year to help them pay for Medicaid?***
***Yep. The information on this part of the program is as follows: Freezes the income threshold for income-related Medicare Part B premiums for 2011 through 2019 at 2010 levels resulting in more people paying income-related premiums, and reduces the Medicare Part D premium subsidy for those with incomes above $85,000/individual and $170,000/couple.
That's reduces, not eliminates. Keep that in mind. We can't afford to pay for basic social programs, but we did, in ObamaCare, effectively increase taxes sub rosa on the elderly Medicare recipients, while continuing to transfer money to the wealthy under that same law.*4
*4 Lately, reading the news makes me feel like I'm gonna throw up.
So anyway, the full list of provisions, with details, and implementation dates, is available here. You should go read it, but if you've read this far, you're already more knowledgeable than 90% of Americans about the law (and more knowledgeable than 100% of Republicans about the law.)
So how are those changes affecting things? Let's look.
Insurance companies are doing just fine, thank you very much. In the first nine months of 2010 -- the same time frame that saw early implementation of ObamaCare -- the top 10 for-profit insurers posted $9.3 billion in collective profits.
$9,300,000,000. Or, put another way, a billion dollars a month. Or, put another way, $32,258,064 per day in profit. Or, put another way:
Insurance companies made $22,401 per minute in the first 10 months of 2010.
Hey, how's your company doing? Mine didn't make $22,000 a minute last year.
In all cases, that was up from 2009 -- the lowest increase was just under 6%; one country (Coventry) saw an increase of 116.4% in profits.
Sure, you say, but that's percentages, and they can be misleading. Fine: Coventry's actual dollar increase in profits was this:
2009: $133 million in profits (first 9 months)
2010: $288 million in profits (first 9 months.)
I'd say ObamaCare hasn't exactly hurt the insurance industry.
It hasn't hurt the places that got $50 million in grants, either. The University of Texas, for example, got $1.7 million to study tort reform -- despite Texas Senator John Cornyn bragging earlier that Texas had already reformed medical malpractice claims.*5
*5 Republicans, as we know, are all for government money flowing their way. They just lie about it to voters, and the Tea Party is too racist/stupid to figure it outBy the way, those tort reform efforts aren't exactly what you think -- in most cases, they are aimed at increasing safety for patients and improving patient-doctor communications to reduce errors and thus reduce malpractice suits. Remember, a medical malpractice suit is only brought when something has gone wrong, so you can try to keep things from going wrong, or you can eliminate the right of grievously injured people to sue a doctor who screwed up.*6
*6 Guess which side Republicans take?
What about that "increasing care for those in need" thing? How's that affecting medical care? Well, in Madison, two of the three local hospitals saw declines in charity care over the past three years.
Did you know that to be a tax-exempt hospital, you have to provide charity care? Did you know that there's no minimum amount of charity care required? Now you do, and ask yourself why that is -- hospitals paying no taxes, but not having to provide an equivalent amount of charity care?
This charity care issue is an instructive look into the mindset of people that know nobody really pays attention. Meriter Hospital, one of those that saw its charity care numbers decline, had this to say in that report:
Meriter lost millions through low state reimbursements for the patients' care, [a spokesman] said.They lost millions. That's what was reported. How'd they lose millions?
From 2008 to 2010, Meriter's share of patients on Medicaid programs for the poor went up by more than half, in part because the state expanded eligibility for BadgerCare Plus in 2009, [the] spokeswoman said.
Some of that money previously would have been counted as charity care because the patients would have been uninsured, she said.
Oh. I see. They lost millions by being partially reimbursed for care that used to be written off as purely charity care.
Wait, I don't see. Isn't what happened a good thing? Isn't Meriter providing less charitable care and getting more compensation for the care they do provide?
The reporter didn't bother to ask that, because reporters, increasingly, are just that: reporters, as opposed to investigators or questioners, but I"m just going to go ahead and say yes, hospitals are doing just fine because even if they are losing millions, they're losing fewer millions and still not paying taxes. (Meriter's most recent bond issue was rated A1 by Moody's, in part because the company is so profitable.)
So insurance companies are doing fine, hospitals are doing fine, everybody's doing fine, right? ObamaCare hasn't hurt the companies that are making record profits, so what's to complain about? Nothing, right?
Nothing, unless, of course, you're an individual who needs health care. While record profits sweep the industry, the delay in implementation meant that in 2010, an additional 45,000 people died of causes that could have been prevented with adequate medical care -- care they didn't receive because they had no insurance and hospitals aren't required to provide a minimum of charity care.
But, I mean, at least business is good, right?
The photo on this post, as always, is Monique (Nikki) White, who died of lupus, a treatable condition, because although she was willing to work and willing to pay for insurance, she was unable to get a job or coverage. Read more about her here.