Time sure flies. Six years ago last week, Senate Democrats used a process called reconciliation – which was meant to apply only to budget bills (because it eliminates the filibuster) – to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) without a single Republican vote. The House passed the Senate bill with a 219–212 vote on March 21, 2010, with 34 Democrats and all 178 Republicans voting against it. And two days later the President signed the bill into law.
In its initial years, Obamacare has had serious problems:
- A website, Healthcare.gov, that didn’t work (on its first day, technical problems were so severe that only six people could sign up).
- Consumer anger over the fact many could not keep their healthcare as promised by the president.
- Some big insurance companies threatening to leave the plan because they are losing too much money.
- Many of the healthcare exchanges created to sell the Obamacare-compliant insurance plans have gone bankrupt. Before Obamacare was passed, the Democrats had huge majorities in the House and Senate. Since its passage, the Republicans took over both houses.
And that’s just a few of the issues.
More problems with Obamacare continue to spring up.
A recent report by Freedom Partners shows that Obamacare is not doing what it was passed to do: stop healthcare costs from rising. Instead:
Over the five years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the average employer-sponsored family health insurance plan saw annual premium increases of 4.8 percent. During the five years following the passage of the law, annual premiums increased slightly faster – by an average of 5 percent.
And that increase is expected to accelerate. Consulting firm Avalere Health found that the lowest cost “silver” plan (the most popular option in the law’s insurance marketplaces) increased 13 percent in 2016. Those who can’t afford the premiums may be eligible for federal subsidies to help them with the costs. According to one report, “More than 80 percent of exchange customers qualify for subsidies, so they don’t bear the full cost of the premium increases.” They might not bear the full cost, but the rest of America does as the cash for the subsidies come from the pockets of the taxpayers.
From the inception of the Obamacare website, there have been concerns about the security of the customer information stored on the site. In early 2014, David Kennedy, head of computer security consulting firm TrustedSec LLC, told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee that hackers could steal personal information, modify data or attack the personal computers of the website’s users. They could also damage the infrastructure of the site.
Later that year, on the Obamacare Facts site, the administration promised that the website was as secure as any other:
The ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, is about as safe as anything else to use, so if you need insurance by all means sign up (remember you can still apply with a mail in form, in person, or speak to someone at the call center for assistance). The website is not hacker proof and nor are many of the other sites Americans trust with their personal information. The December 1st, 2013 fix to the site has addressed most issues keeping Americans from signing up for the site.
Perhaps, in celebration of Obamacare’s birthday, seven Republicans who chair committees in the House or Senate wrote a letter to the secretary of Health and Human Services and the head of the Center For Medicare & Medicaid Services asking for information about 316 security breaches on HealthCare.gov. These breaches were identified by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report released earlier this week.
Some of the breaches identified by the GAO were caused by “weaknesses in technical controls protecting the data flowing through the data hub.” Including:
• insufficiently restricted administrator privileges for data hub systems
• inconsistent application of security patches and
• insecure configuration of an administrative network.
GAO also identified additional weaknesses in technical controls that could place sensitive information at risk of unauthorized disclosure, modification, or loss. In a separate report, with limited distribution, GAO recommended 27 actions to mitigate the identified weaknesses.
Also the GAO found that the Center For Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs Obamacare, doesn’t have enough monitoring of the state-based marketplace as they only require security testing once every three years.
In the letter, the members of Congress wrote:
“In order to assist us in fulfilling our oversight responsibilities, please send us a list and description of every security incident involving HealthCare.gov since October 2013, including how many individuals’ records were compromised, whether the incident involved personally identifiable information, and whether the affected individuals were notified. Please also send the HHS Breach Response Team’s charter and Standard Operating Procedures, its annual reports since 2013, the CMS breach response plan, and the after-action reports for each security incident.
“If HHS did not inform affected individuals, we urge you to change that policy immediately.”
When you add it all up, at age six, Obamacare is still a program not meeting the promises made by the people who developed it and pushed it through both houses of Congress. It is however, making meeting the promises of the people who objected to the government takeover of the health care system. Proving once again conservative philosophy is correct, government simply cannot efficiently (or effectively) run a business.