Coloradans across the state are now faced with another Obamacare sticker shock. According to the Colorado Department of Insurance, health insurance premiums for the individual market will increase by an average of 20.4 percent next year. Prices continue to rise while choices continue to evaporate — leaving many Coloradans searching for solutions and wondering why the president’s health care law hasn’t lived up to its promises.
President Obama sold his signature health care law to the American people on the premise of affordability. He said that under his new law, a typical family would save up to $2,500 a year on health insurance by the end of his first term. He stated that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. He promised that “if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
Now, Coloradans and Americans across the country are left with many broken promises. In fact, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” was described as a “political pitch” and dubbed the “lie of the year” by Politifact.
In Colorado alone, more than 750,000 Coloradans have had their insurance plans canceled over the past three years. In August 2013, we saw hundreds of thousands of Coloradans lose their health insurance. Earlier this year, the health care co-op in Colorado collapsed because it was unsustainable thanks to the way that Obamacare was designed, costing more than 80,000 Coloradans their health insurance. In May, United Healthcare and Humana announced they were not going to be offering plans in Colorado at all, and Aetna has reduced significantly the number of plans that they will be offering nationwide. Now, more than 92,000 people with individual plans from United Healthcare, Humana, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, and Anthem will be forced to find new plans in 2017.
Coloradans on the Western Slope have suffered the most when it comes to higher costs and fewer choices. In 2016, state Department of Insurance found that individual insurance premiums on the Western Slope rose by an average of 25.8 percent. While a nearly 26 percent hike in insurance rates seems unimaginable, from 2013 to 2014, one study found that nearly 150,000 Coloradans saw their health insurance premiums increase by 77 percent.
According to the Denver Post, one woman living on the Western Slope saw her premium cost alone rise from $300 per month to $1,828 per month, or nearly $22,000 a year. She stated, “It’s actually like another mortgage payment. I have friends who are uninsured right now because they can’t afford it. Insurance is hard up here.”
In 2017, some individuals could face an increase in cost that is much higher than 20 percent. And, those in rural communities have and will continue to experience the greatest decline in competition. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that more than 650 counties will have only one insurer on the exchanges to choose from during open enrollment in 2017, which is up from 225 counties in 2016.
The president promised Americans a menu of options to choose from, but in Colorado that is not the case. Of the 64 counties in Colorado, 14 will have one carrier to choose from and 29 will have two. Unquestionably, the dwindling competition in these counties has caused health care costs to skyrocket. As insurers flee the marketplace, those residing in counties with one plan are being devastated by the rising cost. Instead of creating a menu of options, he’s only created a monopoly.
Obamacare is a poorly designed law that was rushed through Congress on an entirely partisan basis, and its nearly 20,000 pages of regulations have had a devastating impact on many hardworking Americans. That’s why I will continue to work to find solutions that will relieve the financial burden this law has imposed on Coloradans and Americans throughout the country.
We need a health care system that promotes competition, increases flexibility, encourages innovation, and puts Americans back in control of their care. One that safeguards the doctor-patient relationship, preserves Medicare for our seniors, and one that protects the most vulnerable among us. I will continue to fight for all of those in Colorado and across the country who are looking for real health care reform.
Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, represents Colorado in the U.S. Senate.