Obamacare’s Dirty Secret: 31 Million Still Can’t Afford Treatment

Obamacare’s Dirty Secret: 31 Million Still Can’t Afford Treatment

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By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

The president’s healthcare law sliced America’s uninsured rate down to historic lows by expanding coverage for tens of millions of Americans. At the same time, however, the number of insured people who still lack affordable, robust coverage is rising sharply as more people buy into high-deductible policies.

A new study from the Commonwealth Fund reveals that about 23 percent of Americans with coverage are considered underinsured—up from 12 percent in 2003. That means roughly 31 million Americans who bought health insurance still have trouble affording treatment under their policies.

The researchers at the Commonwealth Fund defined “underinsured” people as having out-of-pocket costs that total 10 percent or more of their annual income, or a deductible that is 5 percent or more of their income. The study concluded that high-deductible policies are likely the culprit behind this massive influx of underinsured people.

The findings are a huge problem for the Obama administration since the entire goal was to expand access to coverage to millions of Americans that they presumably would use instead of delaying treatment. But a handful of recent studies show that even people with health insurance are delaying treatment because they can’t afford it.

Related: High Deductible Plans Have More People Delaying Treatment

A December Gallup Poll showed at least 38 percent of insured, middle-income people, said they had delayed medical treatment because of the cost. “While many Americans have gained insurance, there has been no downturn in the percentage who say they have had to put off needed medical treatment because of cost,” Gallup’s Rebecca Riffkin wrote in a post on the pollster’s website.

The shift toward cost-sharing and high-deductible policies—defined by the Internal Revenue Service as those with annual deductibles of $1,300 or more for individuals and $2,600 for families--is widespread among exchange policies but also employer plans.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s study, unsurprisingly, reveals that low-income people with coverage are about twice as likely to be “underinsured” than people earning more than 200 percent of the poverty line.

Of course, it’s important to note that while affordability continues to be an issue, significantly more people do have health insurance because of the law. 

Deficit Jumps in Trump’s First Fiscal Year

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By Michael Rainey

The federal budget deficit rose by 16 percent in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. The shortfall came to $607 billion, compared to $523 billion in the same period the year before, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Thursday and reported by Bloomberg. Both revenue and spending rose, but spending rose faster. Revenues came to $2.54 trillion, up 1.3 percent from the same nine-month period in 2017, while spending came to $3.15 trillion, up 3.9 percent.

Where’s the Obamacare Navigator Funding for 2019, PA Insurance Commissioner Asks

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner sent a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma requesting that they “immediately release the funding details for the Navigator program for the upcoming open enrollment period for 2019.” Navigators are the state and local groups that help people sign up for Affordable Care Act plans.

“In years past, grant applications and new funding opportunities were released by CMS in April, CMS required Navigator organizations to apply by June and approved applications and new funding by late August,” Pennsylvania’s Jessica Altman wrote. “The current lack of guidance has put Navigator organizations – and states - far behind in their planning and creates an inability for the Navigator organizations to design a successful plan for helping people enroll during the 2019 open enrollment period.”

Chart of the Day: Why US Fertility Rates Are Falling

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

U.S. fertility rates have fallen to record lows for two straight years. “Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children,” Claire Cain Miller explains at The New York Times’ Upshot. “So we asked them.”

Here are some results of the Times’ survey, conducted with Morning Consult. Read the full Times story for more details.

A Record Low 47% of US Adults Say They're 'Extremely Proud' to Be American

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Gallup says that, for the first time in the 18 years it’s been asking U.S. adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than half say they are "extremely proud." Just 47 percent now say they’re extremely proud, down from 70 percent in 2003.

Another 25 percent say they’re “very proud” — but the combined 72 percent who say they’re extremely or very proud is also the lowest Gallup has recorded. Pride levels among liberals and Democrats have plunged since 2017. Overall, 74 percent of Republicans and just 32 percent of Democrats call themselves “extremely proud” to be American.